November 13, 2010 / 1:11 AM / 9 years ago

Tight race in Guinea run-off as full results delayed

CONAKRY (Reuters) - Guinea’s former premier Cellou Dalein Diallo maintained a small lead over rival Alpha Conde in results published Friday of just over half the votes cast in the West African country’s presidential election.

Diallo had 51.8 percent to Conde’s 48.2 percent, figures released by Guinea’s electoral commission showed from a delayed tally of votes from the Nov 7 election in the world’s number one supplier of the aluminium ore bauxite.

Diallo’s lead is slightly smaller than shown in tallies of 40 percent of the vote published Thursday. Full provisional results were expected within the next two days.

“I understand the anxiety of the people,” General Siaka Sangare, head of the electoral commission, said, acknowledging there had been a delay in releasing the full results.

“Today was the target, but there are things we didn’t foresee, including difficulties transporting the votes to our centralisation bureau. We are now setting a target of tomorrow or Sunday,” he said.

The election is meant to end nearly two years of military rule, though experts fear the outcome could trigger ethnic violence after a campaign period marked by street clashes.

In September, one person was killed and dozens were wounded in street fighting in the capital Conakry between rival factions, prompting authorities to suspend campaigning temporarily for the second-round run-off vote between Diallo and Conde.

Guinea’s constitution requires publication of results within 72 hours, but the Supreme Court ruled this week that the countdown begins when the last vote is received by the central electoral authorities, which occurred Friday.

International election observers said the poll appeared largely free and fair, though Diallo has contested results from two districts over complaints of “massive fraud.”

Diallo and Conde represent Guinea’s two biggest ethnic groups, the Peul and Malinke, respectively.

Diallo has said his supporters suffered attacks prior to the poll and that Conde supporters used lemons on election day to wash indelible ink from their fingers so they could vote twice.

While Diallo is in the lead, analysts say the balance could tip towards Conde, given results from many of his populous strongholds have yet to be published.

A deputy prosecutor from the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, warned the rival candidates to control their supporters and for 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,” she said at a press conference.

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.

Reporting by Richard Valdmanis and Saliou Samb; editing by Michael Roddy

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