Friday, 22 October 2010

Guinea poll "difficult" to hold Oct 24 -commission

Guinea's election commission chief said on Thursday it would be hard to stage a presidential run-off on Sunday as planned, citing a "deplorable" lack of preparation that would lead to a disputed outcome.

The comments were the clearest sign yet of a likely further delay in the transition from junta to civilian rule in the world's top exporter of the aluminium ore bauxite after a dispute over allegations of bias within the election commission.

"I must stress to you that the date of Oct. 24 will be difficult to stick to," new commission chief Siaka Toumany Sangare said after meetings with key political players.

"I would not want to rush and send voters to the ballot boxes in such deplorable conditions that do not respect international standards and which will mean that the results will be disputed afterwards," said Sangare, who was named two days ago after his predecessor was accused of partiality.

The presidential run-off is seen drawing a line under decades of authoritarian leadership that left the West African country in poverty despite huge mineral resources.

Sangare stopped short of confirming a postponement but said he would carry out an "objective and inclusive re-evaluation" on whether the poll could go ahead as planned on Sunday. Further talks -- and a likely final decision -- are due on Friday.

Earlier, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who has played a major role in efforts to guide Guinea towards civilian rule, suggested a delay of one week.

The run-off is due to pit former prime minister Cellou Dallein Diallo against veteran opposition leader Alpha Conde, strongly associated with the large Peul and Malinke ethnic groups respectively.


A June 27 first round passed off relatively smoothly but was marred by accusations of fraud and other irregularities which prompted street battles between rival factions in which one person died and several dozen were injured.

It also sparked a row over the leadership of the national election commission which was only allayed on Tuesday with the naming of Sangare, a Malian, as the new president of the body.

The ensuing delay in preparations has meant that many of the electoral lists dictating voter eligibility in the various constituencies were not complete, one member of the cross-party body set up to oversee the transition told Reuters.

Diallo came out on top in the first round with 43.69 percent of the vote compared to Conde's 18.25 percent.

Analysts say whoever wins is likely to face calls to shake up existing contracts governing the presence of international firms such as Rio Tinto and RUSAL in the mining sector.

"Any new government will be vulnerable to such calls in the aftermath of a highly contested election. This could bring it into further conflict with mining companies," said Christopher Melville, senior associate at UK-based Menas Associates.

Source: Reuters

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