Ivorians turned out in low numbers for local elections Sunday seen as a test of stability in the country amid high tensions in the face of a boycott by former president Laurent Gbagbo’s party.

The UN had appealed for calm after skirmishes during the election campaign, voicing hope that the vote would help put the country on the path to “genuine democracy”.

Several sources said the situation was calm, but voter turnout had been low, as polling stations closed around 1700 GMT.

Some stayed open longer to compensate for voting delays in the main city of Abidjan and other urban centres caused by the late arrival of materials or staff in the morning.

The polls were not “very busy”, said Inza Diomande, a spokesman for the Independent Electoral Commission, who put voter turnout at around 30 percent.

They were the first such polls in more than a decade in the world’s top cocoa producer and are seen as a trial run for the 2015 presidential election.

Ivory Coast is still recovering from years of unrest which came to a head when Gbagbo refused to admit defeat in the 2010 presidential vote.

Around 3,000 people died in the ensuing conflict and Gbagbo is now facing trial for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.



President Alassane Ouattara’s government is hoping the municipal and regional polls will set the foundations for a fresh political start.

Ouattara said as he cast his ballot that he hoped Ivorians could “vote in peace”, describing the elections as “important for the decentralised running of the country”.

However, the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), which backed Gbagbo during his 10-year rule from 2000 to 2010 and after his arrest in April 2011, has dismissed the polls as a sham.