Africa

Guinea election commission proposes new run-off date

Election posters in Conakry (18 September 2010)
Image caption The electoral commission had said it needed more time to prepare for the run-off

The election commission in Guinea has proposed 10 October as the revised date for the presidential election run-off.

The poll was due last Sunday, but was postponed following violent clashes between rival supporters.

The new date must be approved by the head of Guinea's military government, Gen Sekouba Konate. He has said that he does not want any further delays.

Earlier, a UN official warned there was a risk of a military takeover if the second round was postponed further.

"We are getting into a situation where things are getting quite risky and dangerous," Said Djinnit, the head of the UN Office for West Africa (Unowa), told the Reuters news agency.

"There are people in the army who are looking for excuses," he warned.

Guinea's first democratic vote since independence in 1958 is intended to end a political crisis which began with the military seizing power in December 2008 after President Lansana Conte died.

Ethnic rivalry

The preparations for the vote have also been hit by a power-struggle and wrangling at the Independent National Electoral Commission (Ceni).

It was plunged into chaos earlier this month when its president, Ben Sekou Sylla, was convicted of electoral fraud during the first round in June. He later died after a long illness.

He was initially replaced by Haja Aminata Mame Camara but another Ceni official, Lonceni Camara, on Wednesday said he had taken over.

Ms Camara, however, insists she remains in charge of the institution.

One of the run-off contestants, former Prime Minister Cellou Dalein Diallo, has condemned the takeover, while his rival, Alpha Conde, says he has no objection to the change.

The run-off was postponed after fighting in the capital, Conakry, between supporters of the two candidates left one person dead and dozens wounded.

Gen Konate said Guinea was "in danger", and "moving away from our road map".

He must now approve the revised date, which was proposed by the Ceni on Wednesday.

But the military leader said on Tuesday that he "would not accept" any further delays, and his approval is expected to be a formality.

Gen Konate is seen as anxious to step down and has already threatened to resign.

Before the poll was postponed, the electoral commission had said it needed more time to prepare but a Ceni official told Reuters that most of the material was now ready.

Mr Diallo is seen as the favourite in the run-off after gaining 44% of the vote in the first round.

His rival, veteran opposition leader Mr Conde, won 18%, but says he was defrauded of some 600,000 votes.

Mr Conde's complaint led to the conviction of Mr Sylla and another official.

Correspondents say the fighting between the two candidates' supporters has its origins in tensions between Guinea's two largest ethnic communities in Guinea. Mr Diallo is a Peul, while Mr Conde is a Malinke.

Despite being the largest ethnic group, a Peul has never been president. The Malinke are heavily represented in the ruling military junta.

Guinea is the world's largest exporter of the aluminium ore bauxite. It also has important deposits of iron ore. But despite its mineral wealth, the country is one of the poorest in West Africa.

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