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PM Dore: Decision has not been made about delaying election. “We will not hold an election if this will end in a fistfight.”

September 13, 2010

PM: Guinea vote set to go ahead despite violence

By RUKMINI CALLIMACHI (AP) – 49 minutes ago

CONAKRY, Guinea — Guinea’s prime minister said Monday that the country’s historic presidential runoff vote is still set to go forward at this point despite pre-election violence over the weekend that left one person dead and at least 54 wounded.

Prime Minister Jean-Marie Dore said that no decision has been made yet to delay Sunday’s vote after political rivals hurled rocks at each other in Guinea’s capital.

“Nobody is talking about delaying the election at this point. That decision has not yet been made,” Dore said. “We have temporarily halted campaigning in order to avoid conflict. We will not hold an election if this will end in a fistfight.”

Dore has said previously that he is not backing a candidate in the runoff despite allegations he favors the underdog candidate, Alpha Conde.

Many hope the upcoming vote will mark a turning point for the troubled, mineral-rich West African country, which has known only authoritarian rule since winning independence from France in 1958.

Supporters of leading presidential candidate Cellou Dalein Diallo, though, have feared that the interim government would use the weekend’s clashes as an excuse for delaying the presidential runoff. The second round of voting already has been postponed multiple times since the first round in June. His supporters have vowed to descend into the streets in protest if authorities attempted to delay the vote again.

On Saturday, political rivals began throwing rocks at each other. The violence spread to multiple neighborhoods including the street leading to the home of Conde, a longtime opposition leader who placed second in the first round of voting.

Tension between the two presidential candidates is rooted in Guinea’s ethnic divide.

Diallo is a Peul, the country’s largest ethnic group, which has never had one of its own in power. Last year, the Peul were explicitly targeted during an army-led massacre of opposition supporters inside the national soccer stadium last September that left more than 150 people dead.

Although Conde spent decades as an icon of the opposition, he is a Malinke — a group heavily represented in the army, as well as in the junta blamed for the massacre.

Guinea’s people are among the poorest in Africa, despite the fact the country hosts one of the world’s largest reserves of bauxite, the raw material used to make aluminum, and billions of dollars worth of iron ore, diamonds and gold.

Associated Press Writer Boubacar Diallo contributed to this report.

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