July 21, 2010 / 1:05 PM / 7 years ago

UPDATE 3-Guinea court overrules election result challenges

* Court rejects challenges to first round results

* Votes from five districts thrown out

* Run-off possible within two weeks

(Adds detail, paragraph 9, quote from Diallo camp, 11)

By Saliou Samb

CONAKRY, July 20 (Reuters) - Guinea’s top court on Tuesday overruled challenges to the results of a hotly contested June 27 presidential election, paving the way for a run-off between the West African state’s top two candidates.

The court added that votes from five districts, including a part of the capital Conakry believed to be loyal to the third place finisher, were thrown out due to “severe irregularities”.

The No. 1 bauxite-exporting nation is seeking to replace a military-led government with what would be its first freely elected administration since independence from France in 1958. There is widespread concern the election outcome could trigger unrest.

Despite decades of harsh authoritarian rule, Guinea is considered a linchpin of stability in a region where three countries -- Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ivory Coast -- are healing from recent civil wars.

“Mr Cellou Dallein Diallo and Mr Alpha Conde, candidates for president for the UFDG and RPG parties, have obtained the most votes with 43.69 percent and 18.25 percent respectively and are admitted to participate in the second round of the presidential elections,” Supreme Court President Mamadou Sylla told a news conference.

Guinea’s electoral commission has said a run-off election could “in principle” be set two weeks after the Supreme Court’s declaration of the result in the first round.

A run-off had initially been due on July 18 between former Prime Minister Diallo and veteran opposition leader Conde. But the Supreme Court received complaints of fraud from virtually all 24 candidates who took part in the vote.

Observers from the European Union and Carter Center said the election was broadly acceptable.

VOTES THROWN OUT

Sylla said that votes from five districts had been rejected entirely due to “severe irregularities”, including those from a part of the capital Conakry believed to be supportive of third-placed Sidya Toure, another former prime minister.

Analysts voiced concern that Toure’s camp, which won slightly over 13 percent of the vote, could stir trouble unless it is successfully courted by one of the two front-runners.

“Cellou Dallein and the UFDG hold out their hand to all political parties. We understand that no single party can build Guinea,” said a spokesman for Diallo after the Supreme Court announcement.

A successful election in the restive country would help draw a line under a turbulent year and a half of military rule since the death of strongman President Lansana Conte in 2008, and kick-start further aid and investment.

It would also help shore up tentative steps toward democracy in a region notorious for civil wars, coups and flawed voting.

Guinea, which borders civil war-scarred Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ivory Coast, is the world’s top exporter of aluminium ore bauxite. A handful of mining firms are jockeying for position to exploit Guinea’s iron ore resources.

Contrary to some fears, there have been no wide-scale disturbances in the run-up to or since the vote, though the military-led transitional government said it had foiled a suspected armed plot to destabilize the process.

Reporting by Saliou Samb; Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Mark Heinrich

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