CONAKRY (Reuters) - Guinea’s election commission will decide on Wednesday whether to go ahead with a presidential run-off election on September 19, a member of the body said, as the two candidates rowed over whether the vote should be postponed.
Skirmishes between supporters of the political rivals and turmoil within the electoral body have increased the chance of a delay to the vote, which is meant to complete a transition to civilian rule in the junta-led West African bauxite exporter.
“We will decide in this meeting whether to maintain or delay the (poll) date,” Foumba Kourouma, a member of the election commission, said of a meeting scheduled for Wednesday.
Analysts have said a successful election in Guinea, seen as a lynchpin of stability in a region scarred by three recent civil wars, is key to billions of dollars in planned mining investments and could draw a line under decades of authoritarian rule since its independence from France in 1958.
Favourite and former prime minister Cellou Dalein Diallo’s camp insists Sunday’s run-off must take place on time, while his rival Alpha Conde says several conditions must be met before a fair poll can be held.
Late on Tuesday, Diallo’s coalition issued a statement calling for the election date to be respected, saying it would not accept another “unjustified delay”.
However, Conde’s RPG party said it was still not satisfied with election preparations, especially delays in publishing electoral lists and setting up extra polling stations.
“Our problem is not the date. What the RPG wants is, for the first time in the history of our country, the holding of a transparent election,” said Makale Traore, Conde’s campaign manager. “I think it would therefore be responsible to respect a certain number of conditions before going to a second round.”
Conde scored 18.25 percent in the first round, while Diallo took 43.69 percent, short of the majority needed for victory.
Preparations for the poll were set back by a weekend of violence that killed one and injured dozens, and turmoil within the election commission, known as CENI.
Analysts said that, while it is important the election outcome is broadly acceptable to Guineans, a significant delay could risk derailing the process and pose a potential upset to billions of dollars in mining investment.
“There is a serious concern of increased tensions and violence if this vote is significantly delayed,” said Thomas Wilson of Control Risks.
“From an investment perspective, expectations are high. The mining industry is looking for a democratically elected government to be in place. Delays to the election would be a concern,” he said.
Joint ventures of Rio Tinto and Chinalco, and Vale and BSG Resources, have announced more than $5 billion in iron ore investments between them this year. Guinea is already the world’s top supplier of the aluminum ore bauxite.
The head of CENI, who was convicted of meddling with the results of the first round, died earlier this week. A dispute then broke out over whether Aminata Mame Camara, his vice president, was the right official to oversee the run-off.
Diallo and Conde are from the large Peul and Malinke ethnic groups, respectively, and clashes between the two could break out if the outcome of the run-off is disputed.
“Ethnically-driven conflict is a worry given these ethnicities cross borders in a fragile region,” Wilson said, refering to civil-war scarred neighbours Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast and Liberia.