August 3, 2010 / 1:24 PM / in 8 years

West Africa mediator in Guinea as poll tensions rise

* West African mediator in Guinea to seek end to impasse

* No date set yet for second round of presidential vote

* Tensions rise over date, preparations for poll

By Saliou Samb

CONAKRY, Aug 3 (Reuters) - West Africa’s mediator for Guinea began a mission on Tuesday to ease tensions stemming from a hotly contested first round of voting in presidential elections and to firm up dates for the run-off.

Guinea, the world’s top exporter of bauxite, made tentative steps towards a return to civilian rule after months of instability with a June 27 poll that was broadly accepted by observers and, eventually, all those that took part.

The top two contenders have unveiled coalitions with losing first-round candidates, and the first round’s leader Cellou Dallein Diallo is still seen favourite.

But Blaise Compaore, the president of Burkina Faso who has been nominated Guinea’s mediator West Africa’s ECOWAS body, will have to ease concerns over slipping dates for the run-off, first slated for July, and the abilities of the election commission to fix problems that arose during the first round.

“We will contact all the actors involved in order to identify and correct the shortcomings identified in the first round,” Compaore said on Guinean television after arriving.

Conde has complained that he was robbed of votes in the first round as the election commission did not send enough voting material to Haute Guinea region, which is home to many from his Malinke ethnic group.

He has issued a warning for the second round. “After the first round, we said that we would accept the results because we wanted peace. But if these manoeuvres are repeated in the second round, we will unleash our supporters,” Conde said.

In the first round, Conde scored 18.25 percent of the vote, far behind Diallo’s 44 percent, but on Monday he secured the backing of former Prime Minister Lansana Kouyate, a move that will galvanise the Malinke vote for him. The Malinke make up about 35 percent of Guinea’s population.

Diallo has said he is confident of a victory in the run-off after signing a deal with third placed Sidya Toure, who took 13.62 percent of votes in the first round, and sixth placed Abe Sylla with 3.23 percent.


Some critics accuse the interim administration, which is headed by Prime Minister Jean Marie Dore and overseen by the military rulers, of seeking to prolong their stint in power.

Diallo has expressed his impatience over the delays and says a second round of voting must take place this month.

Analysts have said the delay could allow the election commission to rectify some logistical problems from the first round of voting, but diplomats are eager to see the soldiers who seized power in a 2008 back in their barracks.

July 18 was first proposed for the run-off but that slipped as challenges to the first round results were heard by the Supreme Court. Since then Guinean media have circulated a number dates but none have been confirmed.

“No date has been put forward for the second round,” said Foumba Kourouma, a spokesman for the election commission, CENI.

“We have a meeting today to try and settle on a date and propose it to the different parties,” Kourouma added.

Guinea’s election is seen as its best chance at drawing a line under decades of authoritarian rule since independence from France in 1958, and could help cement fragile gains in stability in a region rocked by three civil wars in a decade.

But progress in the country is still fragile

“We need the firm commitment from the CENI and promises from the two candidates in the second round that they will accept the results before we decide on a date,” said Tibou Kamara, secretary general in the presidency. (Writing by David Lewis; Editing by Richard Valdmanis)

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