September 13, 2010 / 5:40 PM / in 8 years

UPDATE 2-Guinea PM hints at possible poll delay

* PM says security more important than holding poll on time

* Patrols stepped up in central Conakry

* EU, US call for supporters to refrain from violence

(Recasts with PM on security)

By Saliou Samb

CONAKRY, Sept 13 (Reuters) - Guinea’s prime minister said on Monday that maintaining public order was more important than holding a planned Sept. 19 presidential election on time, but stopped short of announcing a delay in the poll.

Prime Minister Jean Marie Dore’s comments, the strongest sign yet of a possible poll delay in the top bauxite exporter, follow a weekend of violence between backers of presidential hopefuls Cellou Dalein Diallo and Alpha Conde.

“We are due to hold an election on the 19th (but) the conditions must be right. The most important of these conditions is security,” Dore said on state television.

“The priority must be given to public order as an election is not possible if there is chaos,” he added.

Police deployed extra forces around Guinea’s capital Conakry on Monday after street fighting between supporters of rivals in the run-off left one dead and 50 injured over the weekend.

The violence prompted authorities to suspend all campaigning and rallies before Sunday’s decisive second-round vote but, until now, there had been no word on the possibility of delaying the poll, which is aimed at restoring civilian rule.

The European Union and the United States, which have both been involved in months of diplomacy aimed at stabilising the fragile West African state, earlier called on rival political factions to refrain from violence.

A police official said security forces were watching the large Conakry market of Madina where witnesses said stallholders had shut their shops and some had gathered stones for possible use if more fighting broke out.

Madina market is seen as a potential flashpoint as it houses large groups of Guinea’s two main ethnicities — Peuls who largely backed former prime minister Cellou Dalein Diallo in the first round, and Malinke who mainly back his rival Alpha Conde.

No major incidents were reported as both candidates met the prime minister over a possible decision to restart campaigning.

After the meetings, Diallo, who is favourite in the poll, vowed to ensure his campaign remained peaceful while Conde called for greater transparency in the election body, CENI.

“The election list must be made available and published on the internet, which has not yet been done. The increase in the number of polling stations must be completed,” Conde said.


Violence flared after a court last week jailed the head of the national election commission and his planning director for meddling with the results of the first round in June.

They were convicted after a complaint was filed by Conde’s RPG party, which argued Conde’s first-round score of 18 percent would have been much higher had it not been for such tampering. Diallo came out well ahead with 43 percent.

The RPG has called for an overhaul in arrangements to stage the run-off, including a greater role for the interior ministry, a demand which the UFDG sees as an attempt to stall the vote.

It is not clear who now controls the CENI or whether the election can go ahead until a new head is appointed.

Police used teargas on Sunday to disperse crowds in several areas of Conakry. Conde’s RPG said one of its supporters had been killed by UFDG backers, but Diallo’s party denied any of its supporters had fired a weapon.

Heads of the U.S. and EU missions in Conakry recalled that Diallo and Conde earlier this month had signed a protocol pledging to ensure the poll went ahead peacefully.

“If all respect both the letter and the spirit of the agreement then constitutional order can return to Guinea.”

Guinea is seeking to return to civilian rule after a coup ushered in a military government following the death of long-time leader Lansana Conte in December 2008. (Writing by David Lewis and Mark John; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

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