October 28, 2010 / 11:49 AM / 9 years ago

UPDATE 2-Guinea poll rivals accept delayed poll date

* Conde, Diallo both back Nov. 7 date

* Delay may help restore calm after clashes

* Planned joint trip to flashpoints abandoned

(Adds cancellation of planned tour)

By Saliou Samb

CONAKRY, Oct 28 (Reuters) - Rivals in Guinea’s presidential election have accepted a further delay in a decisive run-off vote, and observers said this should give them time to soothe tensions after violent flare-ups between their supporters.

Citing the need to ensure calm, the West African state’s electoral body said late on Wednesday it would hold the run-off on Nov. 7 instead of this Sunday as proposed, a new delay in a poll meant to end nearly two years of junta rule.

“We have come to a consensus in the interests of the country,” said Moustapha Anaite, a spokesman for presidential candidate Alpha Conde. “This date works for us because we’re already ready.”

Both candidates were due to travel to the interior on Thursday to try to ease tension between their followers, but the trip was cancelled after hundreds of Conde’s supporters gathered at his home in Conakry asking him not to go because of concern about security.

The trip was meant to include the towns of Mamou and Kissidougou, where ethnic clashes have been particularly violent.

Conde’s rival, ex-Prime Minister Cellou Dallein Diallo, also said he was happy with the Nov. 7 date as long as security could be restored.

“It has been mutually agreed and above all they said it cannot be changed,” Diallo told French RFI radio. “It’s a good decision to take a bit more time ... and do everything to restore trust between the various communities,” he added.

The electoral commission had proposed Oct. 31 for the run-off, but Diallo had called for a delay, saying that political violence last week had forced many of his supporters to flee their home constituencies and so deprived them of a chance to vote.

Analysts said the new delay could improve the chances of a credible vote whose outcome is broadly accepted, as long as peace could be restored in the meantime.

“This will give the electoral commission a little more time to allow that to happen,” said John Stremlau, vice president of the U.S.-based Carter Center elections watchdog.

“But it does require continued patience and calm by the Guinean people and it does require the full cooperation and support of the parties involved,” he said.

Conde and Diallo represent the country’s two largest ethnic groups, the Malinke and the Peul, respectively.

Diallo took 43.69 percent in the first round in June, while Conde took 18.25 percent — though Conde says his real score was much higher, citing irregularities in the vote.

Junta leader General Sekouba Konate, who has won international plaudits for his moves to hand over power to civilians, has ratified the Nov. 7 date.

“It is a date that has been agreed upon, cannot be changed, and, dare I say it, I think will be the last one set for this election,” election commission chief Siaka Toumany Sangare said after announcing the new date. (Additional reporting and writing by Richard Valdmanis; editing by Tim Pearce)

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