President Alassane Ouattara is expected to win a second term in presidential elections being seen as an important step in Ivory Coast's recovery from civil war. The world's top cocoa grower hopes stability will reassure investors.
Some hardliners in the main opposition party (the Ivorian Popular Front, FPI), who's candidate is Pascal Affi N'Guessan, have opposed participation in the election because of the incarceration of the former President Laurent Gbagbo by the International Criminal Court in the Hague.
Former President Laurent Gbagbo was arrested when violence erupted following the presidential elections in 2011. Although Alassane Ouattara was internationally recognised as the new president, both he and Gbagbo took the presidential oath of office. Attempts by the international community to resolve the issue failed, and faced with escalating violence (the second Civil War) - as a result of which over a million people fled their homes - the UN and French took military action to protect civilians and Gbagbo was arrested.
In Côte d'Ivoire the Muslims dominate the north and the Christians (mainly Roman Catholic) dominate the south (with about 25 per cent of the populations practicing traditional religions). Outtara's main support is in the North, and Gbabgo's in the South.
Côte d'Ivoire is on the South coast of West Africa and before colonisation was on the trade route for salt, slaves, gold and other goods across the Sahara. It is now the largest economy in the West African Economic and Monetary Union and the world's leading cocoa producer.
Reflecting the prosperity, 20 per cent of the population are workers from other countries, and 4 per cent have non-African origin. They include French nationals and native-born descendants of French settlers who arrived during the country's colonial period.
Côte d'Ivoire became a French protectorate in the 1840s, and became a French Colony 1893. Although independence was gained in 1960, political ties with France have been maintained. French is still the official language, but 65 other languages are spoken, the most common Dvula being used for trade and is spoken by the Muslim population.
Date written/update: 2015-09-24