Thursday, July 08, 2010

Guinea election candidates allege fraud

Supporters of the third placed candidate in Guinea’s presidential election have taken to the streets of the capital in protest at his expulsion from the run-off ballot. The protesters defied a Government ban on demonstrations as they claimed ex-prime minister Sidya Toure was cheated out of a top two place in the 27 June election that would have earned him a place in the run-off on 18 July. 3,000 people – mostly women marched in front of the electoral commission and the Supreme Court offices in Conakry chanting "Sidya was cheated" and "we want Sidya for the second round" before being sprayed with tear gas. (photo: UK Reuters)

Toure finished third in last month’s poll which was generally believed to be the first free election in Guinea’s 50 year history. Toure picked up 16 percent of the vote and was pipped by another former PM Cellou Dalein Diallo who took 40 percent and Alpha Conde who took 21 percent. Toure claims the second-placed Conde “stuffed the ballots” in his party’s stronghold area which prevented Toure from finishing second. Toure released a statement saying results from several polling stations and constituencies were manipulated in favour of Conde. Many of the other losing 21 candidates and their parties also alleged irregularities in what is becoming a depressingly familiar story for African elections.

The news came as US President Obama congratulated the country on holding its first election since independence from France in 1958. Obama said many people feared the country become unstable again after the 28 September massacre last year of people protesting against the then military leader Moussa Dadis Camara. “The Guinean people, however, demonstrated extraordinary courage and determination to pull their country out of crisis, and to chart a new course toward a democratic future,” said Obama. “They were supported by the leadership of Interim President General Sekouba Konate, who has focused intensely and urgently on transitioning the country to civilian rule.”

After Camara was deposed in December, Konate flew back from exile in Lebanon to take over. Konate was widely praised for overseeing a free and fair vote last month with a near 80 percent turnout. On Tuesday however, he announced he was resigning as chairman of the transition and asked the contact group and the international community to appoint a new president to lead it. Though he was eventually talked out of it, Konate was angry at accusations of fraud against him brought by Toure’s supporters. It required a phone call from Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade to convince him to stay in power until the end of the presidential election and the proclamation of the final results.

The run-off poll is bound by the constitution to be held on 18 July. But given the delay in announcing the results of the first round, the run-off may be delayed to give more time to fix deficiencies in technical expertise in the stretched electoral commission. Provisional results from the earlier election were delayed because of logistical, transport and security difficulties. Losing candidates also had eight days from Monday to lodge formal complaints with the Supreme Court, which will rule on the validity of the election within another three days. But the delay is unlikely to help Toure’s cause despite his protesting women. Election observers from the EU and the Carter Centre said they were broadly satisfied with the vote saying irregularities were caused by logistical problems. It will take a lot longer however to fix problems caused during the decades of mismanagement under the dictator Lansana Conte who died in December 2008.

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