* EU says saw logistical difficulties in first free vote
* No evidence of attempts at fraud
* Recommends improvements for possible second round
By Daniel Magnowski
CONAKRY, June 30 (Reuters) - European Union observers declared themselves broadly satisfied on Wednesday with the conduct of Guinea’s presidential election, playing down concerns that fraud had marred efforts to stage a landmark free vote.
The West African country has still not released official results from Sunday’s poll and some candidates and observers have complained of irregularities in an election aimed at passing rule back to civilians from the current junta.
A smooth election is seen as vital to boosting investment in the world’s top exporter of the aluminium ore bauxite, unlocking aid to combat widespread poverty and easing the threat of ethnic confrontation that could destabilise a volatile region.
“Despite the logistical difficulties which marked election day, the (election commission) was able to conduct voting operations in generally satisfactory conditions,” EU observation mission chief Alexander von Lambsdorff told reporters.
The election commission could announce preliminary results as early as 1500 GMT Wednesday. If successful, the vote would be the first free poll since independence from France in 1958.
Guinea’s National Council of Civil Society Organisations (CNOSC) said on Tuesday observers saw “attempts at fraud”, citing an attempt at multiple voting in one polling booth and a bid by one party supporter to spread propaganda in another. “We did not see any direct attempts at fraud,” von Lambsdorff said. “We are aware of the accusations, and we are investigating.”
Guinea’s election, which pitted 24 candidates against each other, has been hailed by diplomats and analysts for the speed with which it was organised and the calm atmosphere in which it was held after a drama-filled year for Guinea.
It comes just seven months after the then-junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara was wounded in a gun attack, allowing his deputy Sekouba Konate to assumed control and guide Guinea to elections, with the assistance of foreign donors. “I know very few countries in which you could go in six months from decision to election,” von Lambsdorff said. “It was an election that was very difficult from a point of view of the timetable, and infrastructure.”
Most analysts expect the first round to be inconclusive, leaving two candidates to contest a run-off on July 18. Veteran opposition figure Alpha Conde, and former prime ministers Cellou Dalein Diallo and Sidya Toure are seen as the front runners.
Improvements to the process which should be made before the second round to include better training of electoral officials, and completing the distribution of voting cards, the EU said. (Additional reporting by Saliou Samb; Editing by Jon Hemming)