Guinea votes in runoff polls

Guineans cast their ballots in a vote that has been delayed multiple times following violent ethnic clashes.

     Alpha Conde, a veteran opposition leader, won 18 per cent of the first-round vote in June [AFP]

    Residents in the west African state of Guinea have begun voting in the presidential runoff election, hailed as the country first free polls since independence from France in 1958.

    Polling stations opened shortly after 0700GMT on Sunday with voters in the capital Conakry waiting patiently in line.

    "Everybody is in a hurry to finish with the old system, money  being stolen to benefit a few, the waste," Saidou Cisse, a retired doctor, told AFP news agency at a voting station at a seaside school.

    The run-up to Sunday's vote has been turbulent with deadly clashes between rival political camps and rows over electoral preparations leading to delays to the decisive second round since the first vote was held in June.

    Guinea's runoff election pits Cellou Dallein Diallo, the former prime minister, against Alpha Conde, a veteran opposition leader - each representing one of Guinea's two most populous ethnic groups - the Peul and Malinke respectively.

    The vote will end nearly two years of military rule since a coup in December, and comes after Cote d'Ivoire held its first round of presidential elections.

    In the first round of elections in June, Diallo took 43.69 per cent making him the favourite - while Conde, who later complained of fraud undermining his score, gaining 18.25 per cent.

    Tensions high

    Tensions run deep between Peul supporters of Diallo and Malinke supporters of Conde after recent clashes, with neither group likely to easily accept their candidate's loss.

    International observers are hopeful that electoral officials have laid the groundwork for a free and fair runoff to reduce the chances the results will be rejected by the loser over allegations of fraud.

    "I am confident that all that can be done has been done. The [electoral commission] has done its utmost - of course nothing is perfect," Said Djinnit, the head of the United Nations Office for West Africa, told Reuters news agency.

    The political and economic stakes are high for the world's top supplier of aluminium ore bauxite, whose resource wealth attracts billions of dollars of planned investment from companies like Vale and Rio Tinto but where instability continues to hamper development.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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