Observers Fault Guinea Vote as Opposition Mulls Options


International observers said last month's polls in Guinea had been marred by irregularities, boosting calls by opposition leaders meeting Wednesday for the much-delayed election to be annulled.

The region's top diplomats said the flaws were serious enough to affect the credibility of the vote, held on September 28 after bitter political and ethnic divisions delayed it by more than two years.

"Breaches and irregularities were observed in a certain number of constituencies, preventing a significant number of votes from being taken into account," said a joint statement issued late Tuesday.

The international observers -- who include the region's top U.N. envoy Said Djinnit as well as representatives from the European Union and west African bloc ECOWAS -- said problems in eight out of the 38 constituencies could "put into question the sincerity of certain results".

Official results for the vote in Guinea -- a country the size of the United Kingdom with a population of 11.2 million -- have yet to be published.

Provisional figures give the lead to the Rally of the Guinean People (RPG) party headed by Alpha Conde, who became the country's first democratically-elected president in 2010.

Guinea's opposition, which has said that fraud was so massive that the election should be annulled, welcomed the observers' statement.

"For the first time, they are addressing the heart of the problem," former prime minister and opposition spokesman Sydia Toure told Agence France Presse.

He claimed that the eight constituencies affected by the alleged irregularities were natural strongholds of his Union of Republican Forces.

The observers, who also include ambassadors from the United States and former colonial master France, said the electoral commission should "identify these cases and refer to them in the document transmitting provisional results to the Supreme Court."

The opposition, whose leaders convened a crisis meeting Wednesday to discuss the next step, has listed numerous cases of alleged fraud, including ballot stuffing, voter intimidation and minors casting votes.

In an interview with AFP on Tuesday, Conde dismissed the accusations.

"I don't pay attention to all this," he said.

"Every party has its view, but it is their responsibility to send their views to the Supreme Court, which is the only jurisdiction with the authority to decide," he said.

"I am waiting for the outcome."

Under Guinea's election law, the supreme court has to rubberstamp the final results within 10 days of polls closing but that deadline passed this week with no definitive results in sight.

Controversy has stalked the polls, which should have taken place within six months of Conde's inauguration in December 2010.

However, it was pushed back with opposing factions unable to agree on conditions for the election, leaving the role of parliament to be played by an unelected National Transitional Council.

In the interim period, Guinea has remained crippled by political deadlock, ethnic rivalries and recurring rumors of coup plots.

Opposition protests have been repeatedly met by deadly police violence and security was beefed up in Conakry since the vote, amid mounting opposition anger over the expected result.

The last parliamentary elections in Guinea took place in June 2002 during the dictatorship of General Lansana Conte, who died in December 2008 after 24 years in power.

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