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Ivory Coast has two presidents in election dispute, as chaos continues

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast — The two candidates in Ivory Coast's disputed presidential election took dueling oaths of office Saturday after each claimed victory.

Incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo defied calls from the United States, France and the United Nations to concede defeat, wrapping himself in the Ivorian flag as he was sworn in for another term. Hours later, opposition candidate Alassane Ouattara announced that he too had taken his own oath.

Saturday's developments leave Ivory Coast with two men who both claim to be president, further inflaming the political chaos in the West African nation whose once-prosperous economy was destroyed by the brief 2002-2003 civil war.

Prime Minister Guillaume Soro, a former rebel leader who had served in a unity government with Gbagbo since a 2007 peace deal, said Saturday he was backing Ouattara, who is wildly popular in the formerly rebel-held north. Ouattara said his first act as president was to reappoint Soro.

Gbagbo's five-year mandate expired in 2005 and the country's first election in a decade was delayed multiple times. He claimed first that the country was too volatile and that security could not be assured. He later cited technicalities like the composition of the voter roll.

The election was held in October and a runoff vote took place on Nov. 28. The election commission announced Thursday that Ouattara had won. On Friday, a Gbagbo loyalist who heads the constitutional council said that the incumbent president had been re-elected.

Ivory Coast has two presidents in election dispute, as chaos continues 12/04/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 1:27pm]
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