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Polls close after high turnout in historic presidential election

For the first time since their country achieved independence from France in 1958 Guineans voted amid high turnout in a peaceful presidential election on Sunday.


special correspondent in Guinea

Polling wound down peacefully Guinea on Sunday in a landmark election offering voters their first chance to freely choose a leader since the coup-prone West African state won independence from France in 1958.

Fifty years of exclusive rule by “lifetime president” Sékou Touré (1958-1984) and then Lansana Conté (1984-2008) was followed by twelve months of a violent military regime headed by captain Moussa Dadis Camara, who led the coup that brought him to power. After a six-month transition period organised by Camara's second-in-command, Sékouba Konaté, 24 civilians – including one woman – are now hoping to win the favour of the 4 million registered voters in the country.

Among them, three are considered favourites: former prime ministers Cellou Dalein Diallo (Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea) and Sidya Touré (Union of Republican Forces), as well as long-time opposition leader Alpha Condé (Guinean People's Rally). The  final results will not be known until next week.

After the polls close: France 24's Cyril Vanier reports from Guinea

A turbulent end to the campaign

The 8,424 polling stations throughout Guinea closed their doors shortly after 6pm local time, bringing an official close to an election campaign that saw outbreaks of violence in its final days. On Thursday at least one supporter of Diallo died and 20 others were injured during clashes with supporters of Sidya Touré when the two camps crossed paths at Coyah, a town located 50 kms to the east of the capital city, Conakry.

As a precaution against violence, roads within and between cities were to remain blocked off to traffic until midnight and the country’s borders were closed all day.

But according to Paté Dieng, director of operations for Guinea’s Independent National Electoral Commission, “no incident was reported” at polling stations during the vote. In a brief statement, Dieng also called for administrators of Guinea’s various voting centres “to continue to receive voters coming to carry out their civic duty”.

Several hundred local and international observers from the EU, the International Organisation of Francophonie and the Economic Community of West African States were deployed throughout Guinea.
While neither the turnout nor the partial results of the election have yet been revealed, electoral observers released a statement saying that “the electoral process is far from being over … and it is proceeding now to the essential phase of counting, centralising and announcing the results”.
They also called for “all candidates and their supporters to wait for complete and definitive results in the same atmosphere of serenity and tolerance that prevailed during the campaign, and to use only legal means to resolve any contention over the outcome”. 

'The start of a new era'

Since the start of voting around 7am, masses of voters began converging in front of polling stations. “This Sunday is a historic day,” said Aboubacar N’Diaye enthusiastically, as he arrived at a Conakry elementary school to exercise his right to vote. “It’s the start of a new era for Guinea.”

He said today marks a significant departure from elections of the past. “Previous votes were chaotic and full of cheating. When you went to vote for your candidate, there were people telling you, ‘You need to vote for this one or that one.’ Today there’s real transparency.

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