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Guinea's  Ailing President Poised to Win Third Term - 2003-12-22

Guinea's ailing president appears headed for another term, following a peaceful presidential election Sunday which was boycotted by most of the opposition.

President Lansana Conte, who has difficulty walking, voted without getting out of his car Sunday in the capital, Conakry.

The 69-year-old leader, who took power in a military coup in 1984, faced just one challenger, solar energy expert Mamadou Bhoye Barry, after leading opposition leaders boycotted the election.

They argued that Mr. Conte, who suffers from acute diabetes, should not run. Constitutional changes approved two years ago allowed him to seek a third term.

Turnout was reported to have been low in many parts of Guinea, and Mr. Conte was still expected to win easily. Official results are expected in a few days.

Overall, Interior Minister Moussa Solano said he is pleased the election took place peacefully.

He says Guinean voters showed political maturity. He says Guinea will continue to be a place of peace and security in an unstable region.

But a London-based West African analyst, Alex Vines, says Guinea may experience instability if the ailing president dies, because he has not prepared his succession.

"He is a diabetic chain smoker with clearly poor health, and there is not great sense in Guinea that he will live for that much longer, and since there is not any clear democratic process here there may have to be a change through some other means; and rumors of coups or attempted coups are very rife in Guinea, they have been over the last few years and they are likely to increase," he said.

Dozens of military officers were detained in the run-up to the election, before being released last week to ease tensions.

Meanwhile, opposition leaders say they will continue to pressure Mr. Conte into leaving office.