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Guinea Poll Peaceful; Voter Turnout High


Guineans are now waiting for the results of what many hope will be the country's first free and fair presidential election since independence in 1958.

Observers say voting was peaceful Sunday and turnout among the country's more than 4 million registered voters was high and enthusiastic.

For many Guineans, the landmark poll was about more than casting a ballot. It was a chance to celebrate how far Guinea has come after 50 years of dictatorial rule and almost two years of political crisis and tumultuous transition.

In Conakry, voter Amadou Camara says there is a lot at stake in these elections and this vote was meaningful to him. He says at 30 years old, this is his first time to vote in his country. He says his vote will help his country move forward. He feel hopeful, he says, and sees hope on the faces of the people around him.

The election is meant to return Guinea to civilian rule after a military junta seized power in December 2008.

Organized in just six months, observers say the vote was an impressive feat they hope will set an example for Guinea's neighbors and boost democracy and stability in the region.

Casting his ballot Sunday, interim President General Sekouba Konate says a soldier keeps his word. In 50 years, he says, this is the first time Guinea is holding free and transparent elections. He says he has called for unity, peace and prudence, that the best may win.

Despite fears of electoral violence, particularly in the vast interior of the country, the main issues Sunday were logistical.

There were isolated reports of equipment shortages, late arrivals of voting materials to polling stations or observers being refused entry to polling stations.

Student Mariama Diallo worked as an observer for a candidate. She says there were a lot of people coming to the wrong polling station. She says some people did not know how to vote, and others were coming with ID cards not voter cards. But, she says, we showed people what they needed to do.

The U.S. Embassy said in a statement that voting had gone extraordinarily well, particularly in the light of the significant time and logistical challenges.

Former Nigerian leader, General Yakubu Gowon, led the election observation mission of the U.S.-based Carter Center. He said he was pleased Saturday with what he was seeing.

"The Carter Center and myself are very impressed with the progress of the elections so far," he said. "It is orderly. It is peaceful. It looks to be a celebration of peace and we hope it will be a new democracy that Guinea wants and that it should have," said Gowon.

Authorities and candidates are urging Guineans to remain calm when provisional results are announced Wednesday.

Six people were killed and at least 20 were injured Thursday in Coyah, about 50 kilometers outside the capital, Conakry, in a confrontation between supporters of two candidates. It has been the only major incidence of electoral violence.

Front-runners among the 24 presidential candidates include long-time opposition leader Alpha Conde and former prime ministers Cellou Dalein Diallo and Sidya Toure.

If no candidate wins a clear majority in Sunday's vote, a run-off between the two top-scoring candidates is planned for July 18.

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