September 27, 2010 / 1:18 PM / in 8 years

Guinea election date in doubt: main parties

CONAKRY (Reuters) - A dispute over alleged bias in Guinea’s election body means the West African country could miss an October 10 target date for the decisive second round of its presidential vote, political parties said on Monday.

A fresh delay over an election originally slated for last month would be the biggest blow yet to internationally-backed efforts to restore civilian rule to a country which is key to regional security and is a major minerals producer.

“The October 10 date is at risk because of the CENI (election commission) situation,” Mamadou Bah Baddiko, spokesman for the party of presidential candidate Celou Dalien Diallo, said.

“We had a number of discussions at the weekend but in our view we have reached a political and legal impasse,” he added.

Diallo’s camp had been pressing for an early election. But last week it accused Lounceny Camara, newly appointed head of the CENI, of supporting presidential rival Alpha Conde and said it could not accept an election organised by him.

“At this rate, we are set to delay the date to October 17 at best — in fact we could even be looking at October 24,” said an official of Conde’s RPG party who declined to be named.

A third official involved in planning meetings for the election said October 10 also appeared to be ruled out because so far only 3.5 million out of the total five million voting slips required had been delivered.

The dispute has prevented junta leader Sekouba Konate from formally approving October 10 as the run-off date despite growing concerns that a further delay could lead to a repeat of street clashes last month between rival factions.

“I am at my wits’ end,” Konate, who has won international plaudits for his readiness to hand over power, told French RFI radio according to a transcript on its website.

“If they give me a date tomorrow, I’ll sign. I don’t want to get involved in this but we have to find a compromise.”

The vote is intended to end a political crisis that began in December 2008 when soldiers took charge of the country in a rapid military coup, filling a power vacuum that opened when longstanding President Lansana Conte died.

Diallo polled 43.69 percent in June’s first round of voting, with Conde well behind on 18.25 percent. Conde’s party said his real share of the vote was much higher but suffered because of fraud and other irregularities.

Last week U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s special representative for West Africa warned that Guinea ran the risk of another army takeover were the final voting round to be further delayed.

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