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November 13, 2010

Former Prime Minister Suspends Role in Guinea Vote Count

by Scott Stearns

Guinea's former prime minster said Sunday that he is suspending his party's participation in presidential vote counting over what the party says is evidence of fraud. The former prime minister is ahead of a long-time opposition leader by fewer than 24,000 votes.

Former prime minister Cellou Diallo says his alliance is no longer taking part in vote counting because it has found what it says is evidence of fraud in at least three of the country's 56 voting districts.

In two of those districts - Suiguri and Kouroussa - thousands of members of Mr. Diallo's ethnic group were driven from their homes in pre-election violence.  The Diallo campaign says it was able to send observers to only a fraction of those polling stations on election day because its supporters were afraid.

So Mr. Diallo says he wants electoral commission president Siaka Toumany Sangare to annul those votes.  But Sangare says it is an issue better addressed by Guinea's supreme court. Sangare says the electoral commission is not a judicial body, but an administrative one.  So irregularities, he says, are better dealt with at the Supreme Court level.

Sangare is expected to announce a final winner in this runoff election Monday.  Mr. Diallo wants that announcement delayed at least two weeks. Mr. Diallo says there have been "bizarre results" in this election and that his campaign has enough evidence to demonstrate fraud.  He says the country waited four months for this second-round runoff, so it should take the time to verify results.

Mr. Diallo's early lead over Alpha Conde has narrowed with each night's announcement of new results as initial returns from areas where Mr. Diallo did well are offset by districts in which Mr. Conde is winning.

One week after the vote, there has been no repeat of the pre-election violence that delayed this round runoff.  The capital's military governor says the army will not allow any violence.  State-run television has announced a ban on protests.

Officials from the International Criminal Court are in Guinea as part of their mandate to prevent electoral crimes.  Deputy prosecutor Fatou Bensouda says military and civilian leaders have assured her that security is in place to prevent violence when final results are announced.

"In light of the elections that have taken place, we have come under that mandate to ensure that there is the prevention of future crimes to be committed.  And we have had assurances about that from all of the authorities we have met, and they have also assured us of what they have put in place to ensure that there will not be violence and there will not be the commission of crimes, especially electoral violence crimes," she said.

This vote is meant to return Guinea to civilian rule nearly two years after soldiers took power here.