CONAKRY (Reuters) - Guinea’s ex-premier Cellou Dalein Diallo held a small lead on Saturday in the West African state’s presidential election, but partial results showed his rival making gains in key constituencies.
Last week’s poll was meant to end nearly two years of military rule in the minerals-producing African state, though experts fear the outcome — now due by Sunday — could trigger ethnic violence after a campaign marked by street clashes.
With just over half the votes published, Diallo’s score stood at 51.8 percent with opponent Alpha Conde on 48.2 percent, slightly narrowing Diallo’s lead from tallies released earlier in the week.
Conde’s share of the overall vote could be further boosted when scores from Haute Guinea and Foret regions are published, areas with large populations of his Malinke ethnic group.
Diallo was seen as the favourite going into the run-off after taking nearly 44 percent of the June 27 first round vote and then winning the endorsement of third-placed finisher Sidya Toure, who took nearly 14 percent of the initial vote.
But results from some constituencies suggest many of Toure’s ethnic Sou Sou supporters did not follow his call for them to vote for Diallo, an ethnic Peul, and instead backed Conde.
The Conakry neighborhood of Dixinn, a Diallo stronghold in the first round, fell narrowly to Conde in the run-off.
“It is clear the Sou Sou did not vote Diallo,” said Mamadi Camara, a tailor waiting in line at a bank on Saturday. “That’s how politics go in Guinea, full of surprises.”
A smooth election in Guinea could bolster fragile gains for stability in West Africa, and encourage further investment in Guinea’s vast iron-ore deposits.
“We are doing everything we can to end this period of suspense for Guineans,” General Siaka Sangare, the president of Guinea’s electoral commission, said late on Friday, adding he hoped to issue full results by Sunday at the latest after missing a Friday target.
The capital Conakry was quiet on Saturday but tensions have flared in recent weeks.
The Peul, which make up around 40 percent of the population, are viewed with suspicion by some other groups partly because they are seen to control much of the economy.
In September, one person was killed and dozens wounded in fighting in Conakry between rival factions, prompting authorities to suspend campaigning for the run-off.
International election observers said the run-off appeared largely free and fair, though Diallo has contested results from two districts, complaining of fraud.
A deputy prosecutor from the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, warned the rival candidates to control their supporters and urged security forces to exercise restraint.
“The elections have the potential to trigger crimes that are relevant to the ICC. It happened in Kenya where we have since opened an investigation. We do not want a similar scenario in Guinea,” Bensouda told a news conference.