New dispute clouds Guinea presidential vote
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CONAKRY (Reuters) - The party of the front-runner in Guinea's delayed presidential vote accused the new chief of the election commission of bias on Thursday, casting fresh doubt on the country's troubled transition to civilian rule.
The row flared just as the commission proposed October 10 as the new date for the run-off vote, postponed earlier this month after violence between rival political factions and problems in technical preparations for the poll.
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In the latest challenge to the credibility of the CENI election commission, former prime minister and presidential candidate Celou Dalien Diallo's camp said the new chief of the body, Lounceny Camara, supported his rival, Alpha Conde.
"It is out of the question for us to accept Camara as president of CENI for October 10, if that date is confirmed," said Mamadou Bah Baddiko, a spokesman for Diallo's party.
"That would be lethal for us. We are not saying that we are going to boycott (the election) but we will not accept this."
A successful election in Guinea, the world's biggest exporter of the aluminium ore bauxite, is seen as vital to stability in a region of West Africa that has been scarred by three civil wars. Analysts say it will give the green light to billions of dollars in planned mining investments.
The vote is intended to end a political crisis that began in December 2008 when soldiers took charge of the country in a rapid military coup, filling a power vacuum that opened when longstanding President Lansana Conte died.
The proposed October 10 run-off date has to be approved by junta leader Sekouba Konate, who earlier this week insisted there should be no new delays to the election.
Baddiko said Camara backed Conde's RPG party, something both Camara and Conde's team denied.
"Lounceny Camara is not a member of the RPG, he is not a supporter of the RPG," said Moustapha Naite, a Conde spokesman. "All we are asking for is a transparent election."
ACCUSATIONS, FRAUD, DEATH
Diallo polled 43.69 percent in June's first round of voting, with Conde well behind on 18.25 percent.
Conde's party has fiercely attacked the conduct of the election, saying the first round was riddled with fraud, an accusation played down by foreign election observers.
CENI has had a torrid time since then. Ben Sekou Sylla, who was chief for the first round, was convicted of fraud earlier this month and died days later after a long illness.
He was initially replaced by his deputy, Hadja Aminata Mame Camara -- unrelated to Lounceny -- but Conde protested that she was a political ally of Diallo.
Earlier this month, one person was killed and 50 injured in street battles as rival camps traded accusations of attempted vote-rigging, and CENI said the row between Diallo and Conde was hindering its efforts to set a date for the final round.
This week, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's special representative for West Africa warned that Guinea ran the risk of another army takeover were the final voting round to be further delayed.