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Guinea's Presidential Runoff Pushed to End of July

Guinea's electoral commission says that a runoff in the country's presidential election will not take place before the end of July after the Supreme Court has ruled on challenges to first-round results brought by many of the 24 presidential candidates.

Guineans went to the polls June 27 in a landmark presidential poll that many hope will bring an end to nearly two years of political crisis and more than 50 years of dictatorial rule.

Provisional results put former prime minister, Cellou Dalein Diallo, in the lead with about 40 percent of the vote. Long-time opposition leader, Alpha Conde, came in second, winning just over 20 percent of votes, and former prime minister Sidya Toure came in third with just over 15 percent of the vote.

Candidates had eight days from Monday to contest the provisional results, and Guinea's electoral commission says the runoff between the two, top-scoring candidates will take place at least two weeks after the Supreme Court announces its decision, expected next week. The runoff was originally planned for July 18, but election officials say it could now be pushed until early August.

Despite logistical challenges to the vote, international observers largely applauded the first round of polling. But political parties have pointed fingers at each other and election authorities, saying that ballot stuffing, fake voter cards and other irregularities and fraud attempts undermined the provisional results.

Guinea's interim president, General Sekouba Konate, threatened to resign Tuesday after protesters in Conakry launched insults at him and accused him of meddling in the poll, but Guinean authorities and members of the international community urged General Konate to remain in his post.

Addressing General Konate, the president of the National Transition Council, Hadja Rabiatou Diallo, says he has advocated for tolerance, forgiveness, peace and reconciliation. She says he had the courage to ask forgiveness from Guineans on behalf of his predecessors and so, she says, we are now asking you to forgive these offenses against you.

African Union Commission chairman, Jean Ping, was in Conakry Wednesday and called on General Konate to finish the mission entrusted to him by the international community.

Addressing General Konate, Mr. Ping says with all that is happening in Guinea's political class, we risk chaos if you resign now. He says those who want Guinea to emerge from this transition should never have used such language toward you and it was disgraceful. But he says, you should not let it discourage you or divert from your task. He says, I beg you, Mr. President, to finish this mission that we have entrusted you.

General Konate is head of the regionally-backed transitional government organizing the presidential election, intended to return the country to civilian government after a military coup in December 2008.

Ping commended Mr. Konate for respecting, what he called, a complicated and tight electoral timeline. Ping said a successful transition in Guinea will set an example for the entire continent.

Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade and Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure, who was in Conakry Thursday, also called on General Konate to remain at the helm and see the electoral process through to the end.