Guinea wraps up vote count amid fraud accusations

Preliminary results were expected Wednesday in the first democratic vote in Guinea since the W African country gained independence.

Conakry: Preliminary results were expected Wednesday in the first democratic vote in Guinea since the west African country gained independence, after a poll tainted by widespread allegations of fraud.
Sunday`s peaceful election was praised by the international community, who urged vigilance and calm as the country prepared to close the door on half a century of civilian and military dictatorships.

However leading candidates alleged irregularities, claims denied as "unfounded rumours" by the electoral commission.

"We found massive fraud in Conakry and its municipalities -- Matam, Ratoma, Matoto -- and in Siguiri and Kankan," two cities in Upper Guinea, said Zalikhatou Diallo, campaign director for Lansana Kouyate, leader of the Party of Hope for National Development (PEDN).

"In Conakry, Matam, Matoto and Ratoma, ballot boxes disappeared (overnight) only to reappear in the morning. There has also been stuffing of ballot boxes" in the polling centres, she said.

In Kankan, Diallo alleged there were false polling stations and in places more voters than were registered, while in Sigiri she said there had been "fraud and ballot-stuffing as well as voter intimidation and multiple voting".

Diallo said her party had approached the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) with these irregularities.

Kouyate, 60, from the Malinke ethnic group, was prime minister of the country from March 2007 to May 2008 under late president Lansana Conte, who died in 2008 after 24 years of military rule.

On Monday night the party of another frontrunner and former prime minister Cellou Dalein Diallo claimed irregularities, saying ballot boxes had disappeared temporarily during the night.

"We will not tolerate that they`re stealing our votes," Diallo`s campaign director Fofana Fode Oussou told.

But on Tuesday, the CENI vowed that there were no vote irregularities.

"No result will be manipulated," the director of electoral operations Pathe Dieng told journalists, saluting the maturity of Guinean leaders "despite a few statements on the work done" by the CENI.

He said allegations of foul play were "completely unfounded rumours".

In all, 20 political parties of the 24 involved in Sunday`s election claimed fraud. The election has been seen as something of a miracle in the country, which just nine months ago was plunged into a nightmare as soldiers gunned down a crowd of opponents to a military junta in a Conakry stadium, killing over 150.

However, while voting was peaceful, foreign observers on Monday called on "all the candidates and their supporters to wait for the final results in the same atmosphere of calm and tolerance that prevailed during the election campaign".

African Union Commission chief Jean Ping praised the peaceful voting process but urged candidates to "respect democratic values, including accepting the verdict of the ballot boxes".

On Tuesday, observers raised fears that results may fuel tensions amongst ethnic groups, which play an important role in the country. "Some problems may arise. I have fears, especially for people who belong to an ethnic minority who find themselves in an area with an ethnic majority," said Mamadou Aliou Barry, chairman of the Guinean Association for transparency.

At least one person was killed last week in Coyah, in clashes between supporters of Cellou Dalein Diallo, who is Fulani, and Sidya Toure who belongs to the Diakhanke, an ethnic minority.

The Independent National Electoral Commission should release first preliminary results before Wednesday 1800 GMT, or 72 hours after voting ended. Final results are due on Sunday at the earliest.

A second round of voting is planned for July 18 should no candidate take a clear majority.

Bureau Report

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