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Turnout Light in Guinea  Presidential Election - 2003-12-21

The polls have closed in the west African nation of Guinea, where voters are choosing a new president despite opposition calls to boycott the polling.

A leader of the boycott, former Prime Minister Sidya Toure, told VOA that the turnout was extremely low.

Opposition leaders refused to take part in Sunday's balloting, accusing incumbent President Lansana Conte of planning to rig the polls. They also say the 69-year old president's ill health will prevent him from carrying out his duties.

The long-serving president is widely expected to win a third elected term in office. Final results are expected on Monday.

General Conte's only opponent is little-known legislator, Mamadou Bhoye Barry. Opposition parties have accused Mr. Barry of being on Mr. Conte's payroll and running for election to give the vote an air of authenticity.

Just two foreign observers are monitoring the election, both from Ivory Coast.

General Conte has ruled Guinea since a military coup in 1984. He legitimized his rule in 1993 by winning an election under a new constitution. But the opposition claimed that vote, as well as another one in 1998, was rigged.

Two years ago, Mr. Conte changed the constitution so he could run for a third term.

Guinea, a former French colony that gained independence in 1958, is known to have one-third of the world's known reserves of bauxite, which is used to produce aluminum. It also has reserves of gold, diamonds and iron ore. But the country remains impoverished due to corruption and inflation.