First-round runner-up Ouattara, a member of the Dioula ethnic group, took only regions in the north (where he received almost 90 percent of the vote in some cases) and third place finisher Henri Konan Bédié won in the center of the country, where his Baoulé ethnic group dominates.
Mr. Bédié has been dropped from the ballot for Sunday's run-off election, and in spite of their rise-above rhetoric, the two front-running candidates have been heavily courting the Baoulé vote. Bédié's 25 percent support in the first round makes him king-maker in the run-off.
Three days after the vote, Bédié cut short any speculation and threw his support behind Ouattara, saying that had they worked together in the government of independence leader Félix Houphouët-Boigny and could work together again because they hail from the same political family. But as the run-off draws near, it's unclear whether this endorsement will be enough to overcome the Baoulé's ethnic pre-occupations.
In Yamoussoukro, Baoulé heartland, Ouattara's party has purchased dozens of small Chinese-made motor scooters, and supporters ride around town waving flags and cajoling their fellow citizens to vote Ouattara through megaphones.
“In the first round, I voted Bédié,” says Celestin Abib Yao N'Dri, 32, a cobbler in the main city marketplace. “But he lost. So in the second round, it's got to be [Ouattara] because we've had enough of the power in place. We're tired. I'm voting for change.”
Mr. N'Dri's Baoulé family has been loyal to Bédié's PDCI party for generations and that it's his duty to follow his leader's instructions and vote for Ouattara.