July 8, 2010 / 8:09 PM / in 9 years

UPDATE 2-Guinea poll seen delayed until at least end-July

* July 18 date for run-off hit by challenges to results

* Poll body says election seen 14 days after court decision

* Diplomat says better, rather than rushed poll a priority

(Adds details, background, diplomat quotes)

By Saliou Samb

CONAKRY, July 8 (Reuters) - A run-off in Guinea’s presidential election will not take place until at least the end of July after the Supreme Court has ruled on challenges to the first round of voting, the election commission signalled on Thursday.

The run-off had been due on July 18 between former Prime Minister Cellou Dalein Diallo, who came first with nearly 40 percent in the first round, according to provisional results, and second-placed veteran opposition leader Alpha Conde.

“In principle, the date for the second round will be set (for) 14 days after the declaration of the result (of the first round) by the Supreme Court,” said Foumba Kourouma, a spokesman for the election commission, CENI.

Election observers were broadly happy with the poll. But the Supreme Court has received complaints of fraud from virtually all 24 candidates who took part, including Conde, and third-placed Sidya Toure, another former prime minister.

From Monday, candidates had eight days to lodge their complaints at the court, which is then meant to rule on a final result after three days, which would be July 16. Two weeks after that would be July 30.

Kourouma said the two-week window between the confirmation of results from the first round and a second round of voting was set out in the country’s election law.

Guinea is the world’s top exporter of the aluminium ore bauxite and a handful of mining firms are jockeying for position to exploit its iron ore resources.

The first round on June 27 was widely seen as the West African state’s best chance in half a century of securing democratic civilian rule after a series of authoritarian rulers since independence from France.

“NOT OBSESSED BY DATE”

A diplomat who follows Guinea said a delay would not overly worry donors, who are funding much of the process, especially if the run-off was likely to be close and delays gave time to iron out technical problems seen in the first round.

“As far as the international community is concerned, we are not obsessed with the exact date, but rather that the election takes place rapidly in the best circumstances,” the diplomat said.

Election observers from the European Union and the Carter Center have said they were broadly satisfied with the vote, while noting irregularities caused by logistical problems.

But the losing parties say they have evidence of rigging such as ballot-stuffing and falsified voters’ cards.

Security forces fired teargas on Monday to disperse people protesting against the results, in defiance of a government ban.

But, contrary to some fears, there have been no wide-scale disturbances in the run-up to or since the poll. Over the weekend, the interim president rewarded the army with a batch of promotions for keeping the peace during voting.

A smooth poll would help to draw a line under a turbulent 18 months of military rule since the death of President Lansana Conte in 2008 and open the door to further aid and investment. (Writing by David Lewis; editing by David Stamp)

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