Thursday, 28 October 2010

Guinea poll organisers propose date

Guinea's electoral commission has proposed holding the delayed presidential run-off election, meant to transfer power to civilians from soldiers, on October 31 but one candidate said on Tuesday that that was too soon.

The poll, the first free vote in the mineral-producing former French colony after decades of authoritarian rule, has been postponed repeatedly since September because of a lack of preparation and street clashes among rival political camps.

Electoral commission chief General Siaka Sangare told reporters he had proposed the date during a meeting with acting President and junta leader General Sekouba Konate on Monday. Konate is expected to ratify it.

But Cellou Dallein Diallo, one of the two candidates, said October 31 was too soon after a wave of violence between supporters of the rival political camps.

Diallo, a former prime minister, said 18 busloads of his supporters had recently been evacuated from Haute Guinea, a region loyal to his rival Alpha Conde, after they had been harassed.

“The biggest problem is to resolve the issue of displacement of this group,” Diallo said. “I think October 31 is too soon.”

Conde said he hoped the date would hold. Independent analysts said the decision to hold the vote as early as this weekend appeared to be a bid to keep ethnic tensions at bay, even though preparations might not be complete.

“I think that while there may still be issues over whether the election is free and fair and according to best practice, there are clearly dangers in allowing this impasse to continue,” said Chris Melville, senior associate at Menas Associates.

“What it means to Guinea in the medium term in terms of legitimacy of the process is another question,” he said.

Guinea, the world's biggest supplier of aluminum ore bauxite which has drawn billions of dollars in planned iron ore mining investment this year, has been run by a military junta since a coup in December 2008.

Konate has since won international plaudits for agreeing to hand power back to civilians, and has expressed frustration over a series of delays to the run-off after the first round vote passed relatively smoothly.

At least two people have been killed and dozens injured in political and ethnic clashes in recent weeks. Human rights groups said on Tuesday that security forces were not using enough restraint.

Sangare was chosen to lead the electoral body last week after Diallo accused the previous election chief of bias in a row that derailed the most recent October 24 poll date. Both Diallo and Conde have said they support Sangare's leadership of the electoral body.

Source: Reuters

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