CONAKRY (Reuters) - Protesters clashed with police in Guinea’s capital on Monday and efforts to restore civilian rule suffered a fresh setback as authorities missed the latest deadline to publish results of a November 7 poll.
Tensions rose as opposition leader Alpha Conde issued a statement saying he was confident of victory, a day after his rival Cellou Dalein Diallo pulled out of the vote-counting process citing evidence of fraud.
National election body CENI had promised preliminary scores by midday on Monday (1200 GMT), in line with a law requiring published results within 72 hours of the collection of all ballot slips from voting stations.
“We are in plenary at the moment. We are working on it,” Pathe Dieng, CENI operations director, said by telephone when asked why no news conference had been called and why the results were not available on its website.
State radio later said CENI now planned to announce the results at a news conference set for 1800 GMT.
International observers said the poll in the world’s top bauxite exporter appeared free and fair, but there is concern that the losing candidate will not accept the final result.
Security forces said earlier they had clashed with several hundred stone-throwing youths in the pro-Diallo districts of Bambeto and Koloma in the capital Conakry.
“We managed to disperse the demonstration,” said one senior police official. Resident Souleymane Bah told Reuters he had heard two gunshots during the clashes but there was no official confirmation of that.
Diallo has 50.6 percent of the vote compared to 49.4 percent for rival Alpha Conde, according to a tally of results published so far by the electoral commission.
Yet Diallo’s early lead has been whittled away as more results have been announced and Diallo on Sunday pulled out of the vote count, alleging evidence of fraud in some districts.
“Everyone knows the result. How could I win four out of five districts in Conakry, all the prefectures of Basse-Guinee apart from Boke, all the prefectures of Foret and Haute-Guinea and not win the election?” Conde told a news conference.
A peaceful first round was followed by weeks of rows over results and over the leadership of the election commission. There were street clashes between Diallo’s mainly Peul supporters and Conde’s predominantly Malinke backers.
State television announced on Sunday evening an official ban on all political demonstrations and instructed election security forces to arrest anyone caught violating the ban.
Guinea has endured decades of authoritarian rule since independence from France in 1958 and has been governed by the military since a coup that followed the December 2008 death of Lansana Conte.
Mining firms look forward to having an elected government to work with on billions of dollars of investment poured into the development of its iron ore and bauxite reserves. A smooth election is also seen providing a boost for a region seeking investors and keen to put years of wars and unrest behind it.