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Run-off Necessary in Guinea Presidential Election

Provisional results were announced late Friday for Guinea's first round of presidential elections, and a run-off between the two top-scoring candidates is planned for July 18.

Former Prime Minister Cellou Dalein Diallo won 39.72 percent of the vote in last Sunday's presidential poll, according to provisional results announced Friday.

Long-time opposition leader, Alpha Conde, came in second, winning 20.67 percent of votes.

The president of the electoral commission, Ben Sekou Sylla, says if these provisional results are confirmed by the Supreme Court, the two top-scorers, Diallo and Conde, will advance to a second round of elections. He says these results will be published and given to the Supreme Court, and he says the Guinean constitution gives candidates eight days to contest the results.

Conde's party said Saturday that it will challenge some of the results.

Last Sunday's poll was a landmark election for Guinea that many hope will mark the end to more than 50 years of dictatorial rule. The vote is meant to return the country to civilian government after a military junta seized power in December, 2008.

Despite fears of electoral violence, Sunday's vote was peaceful and the electoral commission said voter turnout was at 77 percent.

Observers applauded the emphasis by the candidates on national unity throughout the first round of campaigning. But many say ethnic and regional identities are still strong in Guinea and could prove influential as supporters square off behind the two remaining candidates. Violence, observers say, is still a possibility in the second round.

But Diallo's campaign director, Fode Fofana, said this first round showed that Guineans can transcend regional and ethnic differences and he believes violence is unlikely during the run-off.

Fofana says our party's door is open to all Guineans. He says I congratulate all the other candidates. No one lost, he says, it is Guinea that has won. He says our party welcomes all Guineans to come together and bring this country out of misery. He says the Guinean paradox is that we are a country so rich in resources, but our people live in such misery. To move forward, he says, we must work together.

There were 24 candidates in the first round of voting, and the two remaining candidates represent two of Guinea's largest ethnicities. Diallo is from the Peul ethnicity, which makes up about 40 percent of Guinea's population. Conde is from the Malinke ethnicity, which makes up about 35 percent of Guinea's population.

Despite attempts at voter fraud and logistical challenges, international observers, from the United States, the European Union, the African Union and other bodies, largely applauded the first round of voting and have urged Guineans to remain calm and accept the results.

After nearly two years of tumultuous transition, observers say the days and weeks ahead are crucial to deciding Guinea's fate.