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Guinea Election Date in Doubt over Electoral Body Dispute – CNN Interviews Cellou Dalein Diallo

October 16, 2010

Latest Guinea election date in doubt over electoral body dispute
By Joe Penney, For CNN

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

    * Diallo’s UFDG party accuses election boss of favoring opponent Conde
    * Diallo has threatened to boycott run-off if election chief stays on
    * Election administrator Camara says dismissal “will never happen”

Conakry, Guinea (CNN) — The latest date for Guinea’s much-delayed second round presidential election is again in doubt because of an internal dispute within the election organizing body, the favored candidate, Cellou Dalein Diallo told CNN on Friday in the nation’s seaside capital, Conakry.

The West African republic’s military junta leader, Gen. Sekouba Konate, set the election date — a presidential runoff between two candidates, Diallo and Alpha Conde — for October 24 by decree earlier this month.

The vote would be the country’s most democratic poll in its 52 year history, but it has already been postponed three times because of technical problems, mismanagement and internal disputes.

Members of the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI), the body in charge of organizing the election, are now split along party lines, preventing them from working on technical issues like the distribution of new alphanumeric voting cards before the upcoming election next Sunday.

All CENI members are scheduled to meet with senior government officials Monday in the capital to discuss the electoral crisis, according to state TV.

Twelve of 25 CENI members signed a petition last week to the government demanding the immediate dismissal of the body’s controversial head, Louseny Camara.

“If the CENI is so divided that it cannot do its long-awaited work, it might be difficult to hold elections on the 24th,” Diallo told CNN in an interview at his Conakry residence on Friday.

Diallo won 44 percent of the first round vote, held June 27, while Conde placed second with a little over 18 percent. Any further delay has the potential to spark violence and possibly an army takeover.

Diallo’s UFDG party accuses Camara of being an Conde supporter and of stealing voting ballots from a populous Conakry suburb where Camara served as election administrator in the first round.

Camara has denied the accusations and has said he will not step down, at the same time acknowledging that the October 24 date is in doubt.

“Whoever is waiting for me to be dismissed, it will never happen … the head of state has confidence in me and that is what is essential,” he said.

Camara also said that senior government officials, have been withholding funds allocated to the CENI in order to prevent elections.

“If the elections do not happen on the 24th, it will be because [chief of the central bank] Mr. Alhassan Barry and minister of finance Kerfala Yassan did not let the CENI access its funds,” Camarra added.

Diallo, on the other hand, called on the head of state to replace Camara immediately.

“[Konate] must seek to solve the problem himself … he needs to try to find someone accepted by a consensus,” Diallo said.

Diallo’s party has said it will boycott elections if Camara remains in control of the CENI.

Conde, on the other hand, has said he accepts Camara’s position and has already begun campaigning in the interior of the country.

Guinea, despite its immense mineral wealth, is one of the poorest countries in West Africa. Many investors are waiting for a democratically elected president before they begin resource extraction projects in iron, bauxite, gold, diamonds and oil.

Guinea has been ruled by a military junta since the death of longtime autocrat Lansana Conte in December 2008.

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