, CONAKRY, Oct 15 – Early results from Guinea’s disputed presidential vote showed incumbent Alpha Conde leading the first round, as his main rival said he would pull out of the election.
The opposition has said that Sunday’s vote, only the second democratic presidential poll since Guinea gained independence in 1958, was marred by widespread fraud and mismanagement, and have demanded a re-run.
Preliminary results from around a quarter of the ballots cast showed Conde comfortably ahead of main rival Cellou Dalein Diallo with the six other candidates trailing behind, the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) said late Wednesday.
Diallo’s spokesman Aboubacar Sylla said the former prime minister would “put an end to his participation in the current electoral process”, dismissing it as a “travesty of an election”.
Diallo himself had earlier dubbed the vote “a masquerade, a massive fraud throughout the day”.
His party would “use all legal means, including peaceful demonstrations… to protest against the denial of democracy and justice for which the current authorities are to blame”, Sylla said.
It was not immediately clear what Diallo’s withdrawal would mean if the election goes to a second round run-off.
The election commission has been criticised by the opposition and by European Union observers for its poor organisation of the poll.
EU observer mission chief Frank Engel said the many logistical and organisational problems “confirmed the lack of preparation”.
In a statement earlier, the commission said turnout was extremely high at almost 75 percent and described the atmosphere as being “characterised by serenity, calm and exceptional enthusiasm”.
Spokesman Amadou Salif Kebe added that the commission hoped to have received results from the country’s 14,000 polling stations by late Friday. Once they are in, the commission has 72 hours to tally them.
The first free presidential vote in 2010, won by Conde, 77, in a run-off against Diallo, 63, was tainted by accusations of fraud and violence, as were legislative polls three years later.
Fearing a replay of that unrest, International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said she was following the situation “closely” and warned that anyone encouraging crimes could face prosecution.
“Anyone who commits, orders, incites, encourages or contributes in any other way to the commission of atrocity crimes falling within the jurisdiction of the ICC is liable to prosecution either in Guinea or at the Court in The Hague,” she said in a statement.
Guinea’s Foreign Minister Francois Lounceny Fall meanwhile told diplomats that the government was “concerned about demonstrations and statements that we believe could threaten social peace.”
Days before voting opened in the presidential race, opposition parties had already warned of vote-rigging and accused the electoral commission of mismanaging the poll.
Conde spent nearly three decades in exile in France, where he led opposition to Guinea’s dictatorial first president Ahmed Sekou Toure.
The founder of the Rally of Guinean People (RPG) spent several months in jail under the regime of Sekou Toure’s military successor Lansana Conte.