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Guinea Bids to Salvage October 24 Poll Date

October 20, 2010

Guinea bids to salvage Oct 24 poll date
Wed Oct 20, 2010 11:28am GMT

By Saliou Samb

CONAKRY (Reuters) – Guinea’s two rival presidential candidates said they were now ready to take part in a delayed election run-off this Sunday after moves to end a row over leadership of the West African country’s election body.

But it was still uncertain whether the appointment late on Tuesday of a Malian official to head the national election commission would be enough to salvage the vote after the weeks-long dispute put preparations behind schedule.

“What I can tell you is that I am ready,” Cellou Dallein Diallo, who accused the former election body chief of bias and had threatened to boycott the vote, told BBC Afrique radio.

Separately, Diallo spokesman Souleymane Tianguel Bah said his camp hoped the October 24 date was tenable and added that they were satisfied with the appointment of Mali’s Siaka Toumany Sangare to head the body.

“I think there is no further obstacle to keeping the date of October 24,” said Moustapha Naite, spokesman for rival candidate Alpha Conde. “From our point of view, we are ready.”

The election in the junta-ruled exporter of the aluminium ore bauxite is billed as its first free vote since independence from France in 1958 and Guinea’s best chance yet to shake off decades of authoritarian rule.

The first round on June 27 passed off without violence but was marred by accusations of fraud which triggered street violence and a deepening row over control of the election body, delaying the decisive second round for weeks.

Diallo, a former prime minister from the large ethnic Peul group, scored 43.69 percent in the first round, ahead of the second-placed Conde, from the Malinke group, with 18.25 percent.

Gunfire was heard in the capital Conakry on Monday and youths, frustrated by the vote delays, clashed with security forces. A Reuters eyewitness reported that the streets of the capital had returned to calm on Wednesday morning.

Presidency Secretary-General Tibou Kamara, the political right-hand man of junta leader Sekouba Konate, insisted late on Tuesday that it was still technically possible for the election to go ahead as planned on October 24.

A subsequent statement read on state television named General Siaka Toumany Sangare, a Malian who had been working for Guinea within the Francophonie organisation of French-speaking stats, as the new head of the election.

Yet Sangare, who holds the title of army general, has only four days to ensure preparations are in place and analysts fear that any further irregularities this time will mean that the losing candidate will refuse to accept the outcome of the vote.

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