July 21, 2010 / 2:21 PM / in 9 years

Q+A-Guinea heads for vote run-off after court ruling

CONAKRY, July 21 (Reuters) - Guinea’s top court has overruled challenges to the first-round results of a landmark June 27 presidential poll, sending front-runners Cellou Dallein Diallo and Alpha Conde into a head-to-head second round. [ID:nLDE66J25Q]

The results so far showed the election is being fought on ethnic lines rather than policy pledges, with all the main candidates making ambitious promises to rebuild the economy and restore law and justice.

Here are pointers to what lies ahead as the world’s top bauxite exporter makes the transition to civilian rule in its first free election since independence from France in 1958.

WHEN DOES THE SECOND ROUND TAKE PLACE?

Election commission CENI has yet to set the date of the second round. In theory the constitution requires that at least 14 days of campaigning time be set aside from the ruling of the Supreme Court, meaning that the first available Sunday for the vote would be August 15. However, officials in Conakry on Wednesday were not excluding August 8 as a possibility. CENI must address the various logistical failings which surfaced in the organisation of the first round, which could mean that the final date is later than that.

Authorities will have to balance the need not to rush ahead with a badly-organised run-off, against the impatience of many Guineans to choose their leader.

WHERE DOES THIS LEAVE THE TWO MAIN CANDIDATES?

Former prime minister Diallo’s position is strengthened by the definitive results which put him on 43.69 percent of the first-round vote compared to his 40 percent provisional score, with Conde’s share slipping slightly to 18.25 percent.

This could prove an unassailable lead for Diallo, whose well-financed campaign should have little trouble mobilising voters from his Peul ethnic group for the run-off.

Diallo’s party issued a statement late on Tuesday declaring that “no single party can build Guinea” in what could augur more overt attempts to reach for support outside his core voter base.

For Conde — who at nearly 73 is taking what will probably be his last shot at the presidency — this reinforces the need for him to rally supporters of losing camps to his side, most likely by promising cabinet jobs to those candidates. Conde draws his support from the Malinke group that makes up around 35 percent of the population.

The chief kingmaker is third-placed Sidya Toure with 13 percent of the vote, but even if all his voters switched to Conde that would not in itself be sufficient.

WHAT IS THE RISK OF VIOLENCE?

While the possibility of unrest cannot be excluded, the capital Conakry was calm on Wednesday. Toure has yet to give any explicit direction to his supporters, who could be a source of trouble. However they have largely been quiet after Toure publicly apologised to junta leader Sekouba Konate for noisy street protests accusing Konate of electoral fraud after the June 27 first round.

So far, international resource companies exploiting Guinea’s bauxite, iron and other minerals have reported no major security problems affecting their operations.

Caretaker Prime Minister Jean-Marie Dore announced on Saturday that authorities had uncovered a suspected armed plot to destabilise the country ahead of the second round and the army chief said that some arrests had been made. It is not clear at this stage whether there was a genuine attempt to upset the transition, for example by supporters of exiled former junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara.

Guinea’s notoriously unruly army behaved well during the first round and were rewarded with mass promotions. In stark contrast to the chaotic rule of Camara during 2009, when drunken soldiers causing havoc on the streets was an everyday occurrence, Konate appears to have instilled a sense of discipline.

A potentially explosive element is any perception on the streets of Guinea of outside interference. Conde is often perceived as closely aligned to France despite repeated denials from Paris that it has a preferred candidate. (Editing by Jon Loades-Carter)

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