November 13, 2010 / 11:24 PM / 8 years ago

Race tightens in Guinea presidential run-off

CONAKRY (Reuters) - Guinea’s former Prime Minister Cellou Dalein Diallo held a small lead on Saturday in the West African state’s presidential election, but results so far showed his rival making gains in key constituencies.

Guinea presidential candidate Cellou Dalein Diallo leaves a polling station after casting his ballot in the Dixinn neighborhood of Conakry, November 7, 2010. REUTERS/Joseph Penney

Last week’s poll was meant to end nearly two years of military rule, though experts fear the outcome — now due by Monday — could trigger further ethnic violence after a campaign marked by street clashes.

Diallo’s score stood at 51.8 percent versus opponent Alpha Conde’s 48.2 percent with half the votes counted, according to results issued on Friday, 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 which makes up about 35 percent of the country’s population.

Diallo, from the slightly more populous Peul ethnicity, was seen as the favourite going into the run-off after taking nearly 44 percent of the June 27 first round 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, and instead backed Conde.

The Conakry neighbourhood 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.”

Diallo, who served as prime minister under former President Lansana Conte, and Conde, who has opposed all three of Guinea’s most recent leaders, differ little on policy with both highlighting security and mining sector reform as priorities.

Voters are largely supporting the candidates along ethnic lines.

DELAYED RESULTS

Results have been coming out slowly — with no fresh figures released on Saturday night as the electoral commission sorts out appeals launched mostly by Diallo’s UFDG party.

“The UFDG has told us they believe some of the counts that we have received to not match the actual numbers,” said General Siaka Sangare, the head of the electoral commission. “We are in the process of checking this information.”

He said full results could be released on Sunday if the appeals were resolved, or Monday at the latest.

International election observers said the run-off appeared largely free and fair.

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.

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.

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.

Additional reporting by Saliou Samb; Editing by Jon Boyle

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