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World News

Ivory Coast's Ouattara takes early lead in election

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara took a strong early lead on Sunday as he seeks a third term in an election that has been marked by deadly violence, winning all 26 of the voting districts that were announced by the electoral commission.

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Ouattara, 78, won at least 90% of the vote in the majority of the districts announced from Saturday’s poll, most of which are ruling party strongholds. There are 108 districts in total.

The president has been expected to win re-election after his opponents called for a boycott of the vote in protest of what they say is an illegal bid to hold onto power. Ouattara says the approval of a new constitution in 2016 means he is not violating a two-term limit.

The dispute led to violence in the lead-up to the vote that killed more than 30 people. At least another five people died in clashes on election day in the centre of the country, officials said on Sunday.

However, the country was spared the kind of widespread violence that many feared would erupt during voting, and the streets of the country’s economic centre, Abidjan, were quiet on Sunday.

In a joint statement, opposition candidates Henri Konan Bedie, a former president, and ex-prime minister Pascal Affi N’Guessan said on Sunday that about 30 people had died since Saturday, without providing details.

“The opposition calls from this moment for a general mobilization to block this dictatorship,” Affi told reporters.

He said that fewer than 10% of people had turned up to vote, without providing evidence.

There are no official estimates yet of turnout, but a domestic observer mission said 23% of polling places did not open at all because of opposition interference that included barricading roads and threatening election staff.

Ivory Coast was ravaged by a civil war that killed 3,000 people in 2010-11.

Additional reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Writing by Edward McAllister; Editing by David Evans, Daniel Wallis and Frances Kerry

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