, PARIS, Dec 3 – France called on Friday for Ivory Coast authorities to respect the wishes of voters and to calmly await the definitive results of a disputed presidential election, the foreign ministry said.
"We\’re calling for calm and responsibility," said ministry spokesman Bernard Valero. "The Constitutional Council should declare definitive results that respect the wishes clearly expressed by Ivorian electors."
On Thursday, Ivory Coast\’s Independent Electoral Commission announced that former prime minister Alassane Ouattara had beaten the incumbent, President Laurent Gbagbo, by 54.1 percent to 45.9.
Gbagbo\’s camp has accused the opposition of fraud and the president of the state\’s highest legal body, the Constitutional Council, who is close to the president, has declared the result invalid. The Council has a week to announce a definitive winner.
Ivory Coast\’s former colonial power France has not taken sides, but Valero, echoing an earlier statement from President Nicolas Sarkozy\’s office, praised the "remarkable work and rigour" of the electoral commission.
Ouattara\’s supporters have begun celebrating as if their champion\’s victory was confirmed, but Gbagbo\’s government has sealed Ivory Coast\’s borders and banned international broadcasters from the airwaves.
Valero said France opposed this ban – which has stopped Ivorians from following the crisis on Radio France Internationale (RFI), France 24 television and CNN – and hoped it would soon be lifted.
"We are attached to the idea that citizens have access to freedom of information," Valero said, adding: "We would prefer that the main actors respect the popular will and the rules of democracy."
The poll came after years of instability in Ivory Coast, the world\’s top cocoa producer and formerly west Africa\’s most prosperous country. Gbagbo has been in power for a decade, despite his term ending in 2005.
Ivory Coast was split in two when rebels of the New Forces took control of the north, Ouattara\’s homeland, after a foiled coup against Gbagbo in 2002.