Ouattara wins second term as Ivory Coast president

Abidjan (AFP) - Alassane Ouattara has won a second term as Ivory Coast president in the nation's first peaceful vote in more than a decade, cementing its return to stability after years of turbulence, results showed Wednesday.

In a landslide victory, the 73-year-old former economist was re-elected for five years with almost 84 percent of the vote in the first round of the ballot Sunday, with turnout at 54.6 percent.

His nearest rival, ex-premier Pascal Affi N'Guessan, won 9.3 percent on behalf of the Ivorian Popular Front -- the party of former leader Laurent Gbagbo.

Marking a sharp contrast with the violence of the last presidential race in 2010, the October 25 ballot was praised by observers as being generally smooth and peaceful.

Ouattara unseated Gbagbo in 2010 but the then president refused to concede defeat, sparking months of violence in the country already split in two in which some 3,000 people died.

Gbagbo was eventually defeated by pro-Ouattara forces, backed by the UN and France, and is now awaiting trial before the International Criminal Court in The Hague on charges of crimes against humanity.

This election shows "the 2010 crisis is behind us," said Issouf Bakayoko, who heads the country's electoral commission.

French President Francois Hollande rang Ouattara to congratulate him on his win, calling the election "an important step" towards peace and reconciliation in the former French colony, according to a statement from the Elysee Palace.

Ouattara has been credited with reviving the economy of the war-scarred country, the world's leading cocoa producer, investing in huge infrastructure projects that have helped raise annual growth to around 9 percent.

In the face of a fractured opposition he was re-elected on pledges to cut back unemployment, continue to improve roads and other infrastructure, and provide electricity country-wide.

"I'm so happy he was re-elected because of this massive work he began," said pensioner Fatou Kone. "We've got to give him time to finish and to do more for the country."

- Rival congratulates Ouattara -

The streets of the economic capital were quiet Wednesday following news of the results, again in contrast to the violence that plagued Abidjan after the last presidential vote.

Runner-up Affi N'Guessan told the media that "I extend my congratulations" to Ouattara, who is expected to be sworn in next month.

But he said low turnout in parts of the country, where northerners and southerners have often been at loggerheads, showed Ivory Coast remained divided and "in need of reconciliation and democracy."

Academic Christian Bouquet told AFP that he believed turnout had been relatively low though Ouattara had picked up more votes in 2015 than in 2010.

Ouattara, a former International Monetary Fund official, had said he hoped to see a high turnout from the country's 23 million people to cement his mandate.

A peaceful and credible election was seen as crucial to help Ivory Coast recover its former status as a beacon of progress and prosperity in the region.

Known as "Ado" after his initials, Ouattara was born in central Ivory Coast but for some time was barred from running for office in the country due to questions over his national identity.

Rivals introduced the nationalist concept of "Ivorian-ness" that barred anyone with a non-Ivorian parent and who had not lived in the country for the past five years from running for office.

Ouattara did most of his schooling in Burkina Faso and later worked there, prompting accusations he was not sufficiently Ivorian.

Meanwhile in The Hague, the ICC announced it was delaying the November 10 start of Gbagbo's trial to give judges more time to examine reports on the 70-year-old's health.

The trial is now scheduled to begin on January 28.