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African monitors back Guinea electoral process, opposition claims victory

The announcement was a blow to Guinea's leading opposition figure Cellou Dalein Diallo, who declared victory Monday against incumbent Alpha Conde after suggesting the poll was rigged.

A voter casts her ballot at a voting booth in the popular opposition neighbourhood of Bambeto during presidential elections in Conakry, Guinea on 18 October 2020. Picture: AFP

CONAKRY - African monitors said Tuesday that Guinea's weekend election was conducted properly, despite the opposition claiming irregularities and declaring itself the winner before the release of official results.

The announcement was a blow to Guinea's leading opposition figure Cellou Dalein Diallo, who declared victory Monday against incumbent Alpha Conde after suggesting the poll was rigged.

Conde, 82, is seeking a controversial third presidential term, a move that has triggered months of deadly unrest in the West African nation.

Addressing reporters in the capital Conakry, Augustin Matata Ponyo, the African Union's head of mission in Guinea, said Sunday's ballot took place "in transparency".

Jose Maria Neves, the head of the West African Ecowas monitoring mission, agreed the voting process was lawful and urged candidates to "use legal channels to settle election disputes".

Diallo on Monday had called on "fellow citizens who love peace and justice... to defend this democratic victory".

But Conde's camp rejected the self-proclaimed win, and joyous celebrations from opposition supporters in Conakry quickly descended into violent clashes with security forces.

Diallo, 68, tweeted on Monday night that security forces had shot dead "three boys" and wounded several people. He blamed Conde for the "crimes".

Guinea's government did not confirm the deaths. An AFP journalist saw three injured people and heard gunfire in a Conakry suburb on Monday night.

'IRRESPONSIBLE AND DANGEROUS'

Security forces killed dozens of people in protests against a Conde third term.

Although polling day was mostly calm, Diallo's self-proclaimed election victory has set the stage for a showdown with Conde.

The government insists the vote was fair and that only the official electoral authority can declare the results, which are due within a week.

Conde's RPG party also called Diallo's move "irresponsible and dangerous" on Monday.

The international community is concerned too. The United Nations, African Union, and the 15-nation Ecowas, called the premature declaration of results "regrettable", in a joint statement on Monday.

"This state of affairs is not conducive to preserving calm," the statement said.

Twelve candidates are vying for the presidency, but Conde and Diallo are the frontrunners.

'CHAOS'

Guinea's government said in a statement Monday that the opposition "clearly intended to create chaos and to call into question the real results".

Much of the deep opposition to Conde stems from his bid for a third term.

He pushed through a new constitution in March which he argued would modernise the country. But it also allowed him to bypass a two-term limit for presidents.

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.

Diallo was formerly a prime minister under authoritarian leader Lansana Conte.

He unsuccessfully challenged Conde in both 2010 and 2015, in elections his party activists are convinced were rigged.

Before vote counting began on Sunday, Diallo's activists said their observers had been obstructed at polling stations and alleged ballot-box stuffing.

SECOND ROUND

In the run-up to the vote, an acrimonious political campaign saw Conde and Diallo trade insults, and was marked by violent incidents in some parts of country.

It also raised the spectre of ethnic strife, with Conde accused of exploiting divisions for electoral ends - a charge he denies.

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.

A second round of voting, if needed, is scheduled for 24 November.

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