Millions of Guineans head to vote for president


Photo: Youssouf Bah, AP

CONAKRY, Guinea (AP) — Guinea’s president called for calm Sunday when he voted in the country’s presidential election, after days of electoral clashes.

Some 6 million Guineans are expected to vote for eight candidates at more than 14,800 polling stations under surveillance by anti-riot police, gendarmerie and international observers. It is this West African country’s second democratic presidential election in more than 50 years.

Guinea endured decades of corrupt dictatorship after its independence from France in 1958. In 2008, after the longtime strongman died, a military coup led to tumultuous rule until the junta’s leader agreed to go into exile. President Alpha Conde later won the country’s first-ever democratic election in 2010.

Conde is running against seven candidates, including main opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo. When Conde defeated Diallo in 2010, clashes broke out along ethnic lines. Similar violence this week killed at least three people and injured some 50.

Conde voted in the Boulbinet neighborhood in Conakry’s center where he and other Cabinet ministers live.

“I call on each Guinean to vote in acceptance of the other and in calm and tranquility,” he said.

In some areas in and around the capital, voting stations said materials were very late in arriving, and voters were anxious.

In Yembeya, a neighborhood on the periphery of the capital, voters who had been lining up since 6 a.m. local time were not able to vote until after 10:30 a.m.

In Bambeto, election official Idrissa Balde said that some stations would stay open until at least 8:00 p.m. to be sure that everyone votes.

Other polling stations in Conakry seemed to have all the needed materials.

“All the materials are here, and all voting station workers are in place,” said Morlaye Bangoura, a voter at a station in Conakry.

Mamadou Bhoye Diallo, an opposition supporter, said he voted with melancholy.

“With these irregularities, I am convinced that it is lost for my candidate,” he said of main opposition candidate Diallo.

Conde’s opponents had said the vote should be pushed back to Oct. 21, saying voter cards and other election materials were not properly distributed. But the national electoral group said it saw no evidence that warranted postponement.

Mamadou Mansare, a voter in Simbaya, said he was happy after voting.

“This is a memorable vote. I just placed my vote and my candidate will win and we will celebrate, and the world will be witness,” he said.

Many analysts believe the vote will eventually head to a second round that could see Conde face off against Diallo yet again. Results are expected late Monday.