October 13, 2015 / 11:55 AM / in 2 years

EU observers say Guinea vote valid; opposition protests

CONAKRY (Reuters) - European Union observers gave Guinea’s presidential elections a clean bill of health on Tuesday despite protests by opposition supporters who accuse President Alpha Conde of rigging the vote to win a second term.

Guinea's security forces are seen as smoke billows on a street in Bambeto during a protest after opposition candidates called on Monday for the results of the election to be scrapped due to fraud, in Conakry October 13, 2015. REUTERS/Luc Gnago

The EU observer team said that logistical problems including lack of voting materials and the late opening of polling stations did not mar the overall outcome of Sunday’s ballot in Guinea, which is Africa’s largest bauxite producer.

Early results announced by radio stations showed Conde with a sizeable lead. Official figures are not expected until the end of the week. Opposition leaders on Monday rejected the results and called for the ballot to be reorganized.

After nightfall, residents in outlying neighborhoods of Conakry, the coastal capital, reported hearing gunfire following clashes earlier in the day between security forces and opposition supporters.

“There is shooting here,” said Fatoumata Bah, a resident of the Simbayah district. “I don’t know how we will get any sleep in these conditions.”

The head of the EU observer mission, Frank Engels, said nearly two-thirds of polls opened late because of insufficient materials and some did not receive voting booths at all, but representatives of the political parties were in most locations and counts were mostly transparent.

“What I saw in terms of insufficient (voting material), lack of preparation and logistical and practical difficulties at the polling stations does not mar the validity of the election,” Engels said.

Guinea has a history of political violence, including at the 2010 election that brought Conde to power. On Friday, two people were killed and at least 33 were injured in clashes between Conde supporters and those of the main opposition leader Celloun Dalein Diallo.

Engels’ comment was echoed by the head of the African Union monitoring group, which said the election was transparent despite some organizational difficulties.

All seven opposition candidates, including Diallo, called on Monday for the results of the election to be scrapped due to fraud.

Conde’s election in 2010 - Guinea’s first democratic elections since independence from France in 1958 - ended two years of military rule, but was rejected by Diallo as fraudulent.

In an apparent sign of division within the opposition, the deputy head of Diallo’s UFDG party, the largest opposition group, said on Tuesday it was too early to reject the election before the official results had been announced.

Writing by Makini Brice and Daniel Flynn; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg, Tom Heneghan and Leslie Adler

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