, GUINEA, Oct 13 – EU election observers Tuesday slammed the poor organisation of Guinea’s first-round presidential ballot this weekend but urged the opposition to take its complaints to the courts rather onto the streets.
At a highly-awaited press conference after the tense Sunday ballot, the European Union observer mission chief, Frank Engel, said the many logistical and organisational problems that surfaced “confirmed the lack of preparation” by Guinea’s Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI).
Opposition leaders on Monday called for a re-run of the vote, condemning the ballot as fraudulent even before the results were in and pledging to take to the streets in protest.
But Engel, who commended the fact that election day remained peaceful despite the glitches, said “the disputes that might arise in Guinea should be transferred to the judges rather than lived out in the street.”
It was only the second democratic presidential election in the west African country since independence in 1958 and saw a strong turnout of around 60 percent, the observers said.
Welcoming voter participation and lack of violence on election day, Engel said “the October 11 vote was an exemplary ballot for this country.”
The first free presidential vote in 2010, won by incumbent President Alpha Conde, was tainted by violence and accusations of fraud, as were legislative polls three years later.
But opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo dubbed Sunday’s vote “a masquerade, a massive fraud throughout the day.”
Some polling stations opened late, others were short of envelopes. Some voters turned up without voter ID cards while others failed to find their names on electoral registers. Some lists were neither in alphabetical nor numerical order.
– ‘We will demonstrate’ –
“We cannot accept this ballot, we request it be annulled. We will not accept the results of this vote,” Diallo said at a press conference Monday also attended by the six other candidates challenging the incumbent head of state.
“We will not give in, we have the right to demonstrate, we will demonstrate.”
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the peaceful vote and urged all sides to refrain from any action that could lead to violence ahead of the release of the official results, expected in the coming days.
While the other six candidates questioned the vote, none called for protest, and the single woman running for election, Marie Madeleine Dioubate, urged her supporters to “stay calm, stay off the streets”.
Even before voting opened, opposition parties had warned of fraud and vote-rigging and accused the CENI of mismanaging the poll.
“No one wants the country to burn, no one wants citizens to clash, stones against stones, sticks against sticks, but the scene has been set… so that is where we end up,” said former prime minister Lansana Kouyate, one of three ex premiers standing in the poll.
Conde was elected five years ago to head the mineral-rich but impoverished nation after returning from three decades in exile to defeat Diallo, a former prime minister who remains his closest rival.
The 77-year-old incumbent campaigned on his track record of reforms to the army and judiciary and improved supply of hydroelectric power.
His foes have accused him of poor management, including the handling of the Ebola crisis, and said he wields too much power in isolation while stirring up tension among ethnic groups.