Guinea election rivals both declare victory, setting stage for tense showdown

Hours before the Guinea election commission announced Alpha Conde as the nation's first democratically elected president in a half-century, rival candidate Cellou Dalein Diallo proclaimed himself winner.

Idrissa Soumare/AP
Guinea president elect Alpha Conde leaves his office, in Conakry, Guinea, on Tuesday, Nov. 16.

Euphoria over the announcement that Alpha Conde is Guinea’s first democratically elected president melted into apprehension as rival candidate Cellou Dalein Diallo also proclaimed himself winner – setting the stage for a tense showdown in the days ahead.

Mr. Conde won the Nov. 7 runoff election with 52.52 percent of the vote to Mr. Diallo's 47.48 percent, according to final results released late Monday night by the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI). Pre-election violence saw numerous car and store windows smashed with rocks, resulting in clashes with the military that claimed the lives of at least three residents, in addition to another civilian reportedly killed Monday night.

Immediately following the announcement, the massive conference hall Palais du Peuple erupted into applause. People of all ages took to the capital's streets singing and dancing in celebration for Conde’s party, the Rally of Guinean People (RPG). Speaking from his private residence in Conakry, Conde vowed to be “the president for all” and extended his hand toward “his brother” Diallo for the reconciliation of the country.

But hours before the announcement was even made, former Prime Minister Diallo had already proclaimed himself winner. On Sunday, he suspended his participation in the CENI verification process and promised to “not accept any results” until complaints of voter fraud had been “fully examined and addressed.”

Fraud allegations

Diallo's party, the ethnic-Peul-led Union for the Democratic Forces of Guinea (UFDG), have alleged voter fraud at several polling stations where voting totals were greater than registered voters. Diallo specifically vowed to contest “the inclusion of any results from Siguiri,” where hundreds of ethnic Peuls were chased from their homes in the lead-up to elections.

Although the displaced Peuls eventually were granted the right to vote in a protocol agreed upon by both parties, Diallo claims his party observers were denied access during voting and could not therefore certify its transparency.

His refusal to recognize the region of Siguiri is of critical importance: either party’s victory hinges on it.

The United Nations on Monday urged all parties to accept the election results. CENI President Siaka Toumani Sangare expressed disbelief that UFDG complaints have not been taken seriously. “We have worked hard to verify these sources,” he responded. “I don’t understand how [Diallo] can say we have refused to treat them.” The matter is now headed for the Supreme Court sometime next week, when the final decision election outcome will be confirmed.

Monday's results came five days later than expected, with apprehensions rising and accusations swirling as each deadline passed.

Tumultuous two years

Storefronts have been closed across the country since last week, with the capital’s main shopping center resembling a ghost town. Some UFDG supporters have already congregated across the capital to protest what they view as a stolen election. Several buildings were set ablaze in the neighborhood of Amadac on Monday, and nearly all circulation has been cut off in the district of Bambeto, where the unrest is most palpable.

Despite the sporadic outbreaks of violence, Guineans appear optimistic and eager to start building a stable government after more than 50 years of little to no tangible economic development.

The election follows a tumultuous two years in which President Lansana Conte, who held power for 24 years, died in December 2008, Army Captain Moussa Dadis Camara seized power and was then shot in December 2009, and General Sekouba Konate became interim president and began plans for a democratic election with a first round vote in June.

“The violence Guinea has suffered, even up to this point, is not stronger than the courage of the people," said local journalist Kouyate Abdoulaye. "It took unity of purpose to get to this point – with many giving their very lives. It will take the same attitude to make this important transition to a stronger, democratic Guinea.“

IN PICTURES: Guinea election

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