Guinea halts presidential run-off

2010-09-16 08:38

Conakry, Guinea. – Guinea has halted Sunday’s presidential run-off after days of violence, as the military ruler called for fresh regional mediation to prevent the country heading for a “dead end”.

In a solemn televised address to the nation, transitional leader General Sekouba Konate said the West African country risked a “grave political and social crisis” and called on Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore, the regional mediator, to intervene.

He urged Compaore to meet with the two candidates and politicians, adding: “More and more we are moving away from our roadmap. I note with regret?.?.?. that our country is heading for a dead end.

“Guinea no longer has a margin for error and has no time to lose,” the general said.

The address followed shortly after an announcement by the electoral commission late yesterday that it had postponed Sunday’s run-off.

“We need two weeks to prepare well,” said Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) spokesperson Thierno Ceydou Bayo.

Prime Minister Jean-Marie Dore called in the two candidates, Cellou Dalein Diallo and Alpha Conde, before the announcement was made.

Bayo said Dore’s government would decide the new date for the poll.

Preparations for the second round have been marred by violence and the government suspended campaigning after rival supporters clashed in Conakry last weekend, killing one person and injuring around 50.

Conde, a veteran opposition leader, strongly contested the result of June’s first round, accusing the electoral commission of “gigantic fraud” as Diallo won nearly 44% of the vote to his 18%. Diallo is a former prime minister.

The crisis has marred Guinea’s first democratic poll since independence from France in 1958.

Bayo said one of the reasons for the delay was that the commission was waiting for the arrival of 450?000 new polling cards, which had been ordered from South Africa and were due to arrive “Sunday night to Monday”.

The weekend violence erupted after an announcement Friday that the head of the CENI – who died in Paris on Tuesday – and a top aide had been convicted of electoral fraud and sentenced to a year in prison.

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