ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast – Rival parties in Ivory Coast traded accusations of voter intimidation, violence and fraud on Monday, as the world's leading cocoa producer awaited results from the country's first presidential election in a decade.
Electoral commission spokesman Yves Tadet said the first preliminary results would be announced later Monday.
Vote counts were being tabulated Monday from polling stations nationwide, which completed their vote counts Sunday night and began sending them to the commission's headquarters in the main city, Abidjan. Some results could not be delivered on time, however, because of a 10 p.m. curfew imposed days ago by President Laurent Gbagbo over security concerns.
Several people were reportedly killed on polling day Sunday, but The Associated Press could not independently confirm casualties with international or domestic authorities. Still, millions of people voted largely without incident.
After nightfall Sunday, several bursts of automatic gunfire rang out in Abidjan, but the origin of the gunshots was unclear and the city was calm Monday.
The ballot, delayed for years, is seen as a key step toward reuniting the country eight years after a civil war divided it in two.
Voters chose between Gbagbo, who has been in power since violent street protests swept him into power in 2000, and Alassane Ouattara, the man Gbagbo accuses of being behind the rebellion that sought to topple him in 2002.
Gbagbo received 38 percent in a first round of voting in October, and Ouattara came second with about 32 percent. Since then, third-place finisher Henri Konan Bedie, who won 25 percent, has thrown his support behind Ouattara.
Interior Ministry official Auguste Zoguehi announced on state television late Sunday that two people were killed on polling day — one soldier and one civilian — in the town of Niouboua, in the west. He went on to list a dozen other incidents including one where armed men arrived at polling stations outside the city of Bouafle and made off with the ballot boxes. His claims, however, were refuted by the prime minister in a statement released late Sunday.
Gbagbo's campaign director Pascal Affi N'Guessan claimed five soldiers and police officers were killed in scuffles outside of a polling station in Daloa, also in the west of the country. His claims were denied by gendarmes contacted in Daloa for confirmation.
The opposition also leveled accusations of voter intimidation, kidnapping and violence. In Sinfra, a town not far from Niouboua, skirmishes between partisans led to six deaths, said local Ouattara campaign director Zoua Boti Bi. Three of their party officials were kidnapped by unidentified armed men, he said.
Despite multiple inquiries with both international and domestic authorities, none of the incidents could be independently confirmed by the AP.
A curfew went into effect for the second consecutive night at 10 p.m. Sunday, and the country was mostly calm. But confusion and suspicions rose after the electoral commission, which had promised to release partial results the night of the vote, canceled its announcement.
While voting for the most part took place peacefully, recent violence has stoked fears the situation could degenerate if the results aren't accepted by both sides.
Rebels in the northern half of the country still haven't disarmed and militias in the west remain dangerous, according to a recent report by New York-based Human Rights Watch.