Guinea: Vote count begins after tense election

Main opposition candidate Diallo suggests President Conde may ‘cheat’ in order to ‘grant himself a presidency for life’.

Official results are not expected for several days [John Wessels/AFP]

Vote counting is under way after Guinea’s high-stakes election in which the 82-year-old President Alpha Conde is seeking a controversial third term.

Sunday’s vote follows months of political unrest, where dozens of people were killed during security crackdowns on mass anti-Conde protests.

Polls closed after a mostly calm day of voting, but there are already fears of post-election discord after Conde’s main opposition rival, Cellou Dalein Diallo, suggested the president may “cheat”.

“Alpha Conde cannot abandon his desire to grant himself a presidency for life,” Diallo told reporters on Sunday, warning his rival not take power using “cunning and violence”.

Before counting began, his supporters decried ballot-box stuffing and said its observers encountered obstructions at polling stations.

Guinea’s Prime Minister Ibrahima Kassory Fofana said there had been “small incidents here and there”.

The results are not expected for several days.

Ten other candidates besides Conde and Diallo were contesting the poll.

A second-round runoff vote is scheduled for November 24, if needed.

Political tensions during the campaign raised the spectre of ethnic strife, with Conde accused of exploiting divisions for electoral ends – a charge he denies.

Diallo (l) and Conde have faced off twice before in tense polls in 2010 and 2015 [Cellou Binani/AFP]

Security Minister Albert Damantang Camara told AFP news agency there had been “no major incidents” on Sunday, but that he was concerned about suggestions that Diallo would not accept the result.

Camara urged Diallo to “return to his senses”.

Mohamed Fode Camara, a social affairs ministry employee, said he “feared the day when results are announced”.

“God will save us,” he said, adding that Guineans “want peace, not a fight”.

Guinea’s politics are mainly drawn along ethnic lines: the president’s base is mostly from the ethnic Malinke community and Diallo’s from the Fulani people.

Much of the tension in Guinea relates to a new constitution Conde pushed through in March, in defiance of mass protests, arguing that it would modernise the country.

The move controversially allowed him to bypass a two-term limit for presidential terms.

After decades as an opposition activist, Conde became Guinea’s first democratically elected president in 2010 and won again in 2015 but rights groups now accuse him of veering towards authoritarianism.

Source: AFP