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Tense Guinea awaits election results

By Faith Karimi, CNN
  • Observers: Results scheduled to be announced Friday
  • Twenty-four civilian candidates were running for president
  • West African nation led by military junta
  • Voters hoping to return to civilian rule

(CNN) -- Results of Guinea's election are scheduled to be announced Friday, elections observers said, as a tense nation waited following the first free ballot since the west African nation gained independence about five decades ago.

The Supreme Court gave the Election Commission an additional 48 hours Wednesday to publish the results, citing logistical problems, including collecting and counting ballot papers.

"We're quite confident the results will be announced today," Dr. Abdel-Fatau Musah, political affairs director for the Economic Community Of West African States said Friday. "We've done a lot to quell the tensions, lots of inciting and speculation flying around -- we can't do anything to stop the tension if the results are not announced today."

Observers applauded the Sunday vote in a country ruled by authoritarian and military dictators since it gained independence from France in 1958. About 4 million people voted.

"We are quite satisfied," Musah said. "We have to look at the context. Guinea has never had an election where no party has boycotted, it has never had an election where there was no incumbency factor ... where the electoral commission has been independent."

Twenty-four civilian candidates were running for president. If no candidate gets more than a 50 percent majority, the top two will face a runoff scheduled for July 18.

At least 21 candidates are making fraud accusations, Musah said, adding, "but this is Africa, opposition candidates always argue they've been cheated even when they have not been cheated."

ECOWAS is one of many observers in the country, as is the Carter Center from the United States. ECOWAS has the largest delegation in the country, according to Musah.

The group did not see any attempt at "organized fraud," he said. Just the usual logistical problems, some cases of double voting, but overall, the vote was fair and transparent, he said.

Some people have been accused of fraud, and some arrests have been made, Musah said, but in general, the vote has been satisfactory.

The election will put a civilian in charge of a nation ruled by a military junta who replaced veteran ruler Lansana Conte after his death in late 2008.

Capt. Moussa Dadis Camara seized power and promised elections and the introduction of civilian rule.

Last year, the opposition organized a protest against him in a stadium in the capital Conakry, but the military attacked the demonstrators. About 150 people were killed, more than 100 raped and at least 1,000 injured, according to the U.S. government and international human rights groups.

Camara was seriously wounded in an assassination attempt by an aide in December 2009, and flown overseas for medical treatment. He survived, but agreed not to return to the country.

Minister of Defense Brig. Gen. Sekouba Konate became interim president, paving the way for the elections on Sunday.

Guinea, a country of about 10 million people, has gold and diamond mines. It is a leading producer of bauxite, an important aluminum ore.