November 10, 2010 / 5:24 AM / 8 years ago

Tensions mount as Guinea poll results trickle in

CONAKRY (Reuters) - Guinea’s former premier Cellou Dallein Diallo held a slight lead over his rival Alpha Conde after Sunday’s presidential run-off, partial preliminary results showed on Tuesday.

Presidential candidate Alpha Conde (R), leader for Rassemblement du Peuple de Guinea (RPG), and fellow candidate Cellou Dallein Diallo from "l Union des forces démocratiques de Guinée" (UFDG) attend a meeting at the Sekhoutoureyah palace November 6, 2010. REUTERS/Stringer

With about 7 percent of the nationwide ballots tallied, the partial results issued by electoral officials showed Diallo had 51.7 percent, with support from Guineans abroad offsetting losses recorded inside the West African state.

“The results issued by the electoral commission show that we are ahead,” Diallo spokesman Foday Fofana told reporters shortly after the figures were published.

The election is meant to end nearly two years of military rule and could shore up fragile gains in stability in a region known as Africa’s “coup belt”, though analysts have said they are concerned about ethnic clashes over the outcome.

Diallo, who hails from Guinea’s largest ethnic group, the Peul, has already formally contested yet-to-be-published results from two zones over alleged fraud — including the use of lemons by Conde supporters to wash indelible ink from their fingers so they could vote twice.

Conde, meanwhile, comes from Guinea’s second largest ethnic group, the Malinke.

Rival camps clashed repeatedly during a turbulent campaign period since the first round in June.

The partial election results showed Conde ahead in all five communes and prefectures counted within Guinea, while Diallo swept nearly all of the 12 foreign precincts.

Political analysts have said Diallo’s chances at winning the presidency rest with an alliance he made with the third-place finisher in the first-round, Sidya Toure, and whether Toure’s largely Sou Sou supporters respected it on election day.

“We’re starting to think Toure’s supporters went the other way,” said one analyst, who asked not to be named.

Diallo took over 43 percent of the first-round vote, while Conde took nearly 19 percent.

SCRAPS OF PAPER

Earlier in the day, crowds massed around Guinea’s capital awaiting election results. Scraps of paper were circulated with unofficial figures, sparking tussles in places, in an apparent tit-for-tat propaganda campaign.

“You can see that people are anxious for results,” said Etienne Bongoro, an engineer who joined dozens of Conde supporters in Conakry’s Miniere neighbourhood.

Security forces arrested four people for distributing false elections results, the head of the electoral commission, General Siaka Sangare, told reporters.

Guinea is the world’s largest supplier of the aluminium ore bauxite, and its iron ore riches have drawn billions of dollars of planned investment from companies like Rio Tinto and Vale.

Both candidates have said they would review mining contracts, though neither is expected to take an aggressive approach given the importance of resource revenues.

International election observers have said Sunday’s vote — which had been delayed for months after the June 27 first round — appeared largely free and fair despite minor deficiencies.

But they warned against extended delays to releasing the full provisional results and called for calm.

“We encourage the candidates to ensure that their followers behave responsibly just as we believe they themselves would behave responsibly,” General Yakubu Gowon, co-leader of the Carter Center mission in Guinea, told a news conference.

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