Guinea’s opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo declared Monday, without waiting for official results, that he had won a presidential election against incumbent Alpha Conde, who is seeking a controversial third term.
Speaking at a press conference in the capital Conakry a day after the hotly contested first-round vote, Diallo said he had emerged “victorious” despite “anomalies which marred the ballot”.
“I invite all my fellow citizens who love peace and justice to stay vigilant and committed to defend this democratic victory,” the 68-year-old said, dressed in a sky-blue robe, from his party headquarters.
Outside the building, supporters erupted in joy and chanted “Cellou, president”. Elsewhere in the city, security forces fired tear gas canisters at crowds assembling in support of Diallo.
Bakary Mansare, the vice-president of Guinea’s electoral authority, told AFP that Diallo’s self-proclaimed victory was “null and void”.
“It is not up to a candidate or a person to proclaim himself the winner outside the bodies defined by the law,” he said.ADVERTISEMENT
Conde’s RPG party also said in a statement Monday that it condemned “with the utmost firmness the irresponsible and dangerous declaration” by Diallo. It called for its activists to remain calm.
Diallo’s announcement sets the stage for a showdown with the government, which insists that Sunday’s vote was fair and that the official electoral authority must declare the results.
Polling day was mostly calm, but it followed months of protests against a third term for 82-year-old President Conde in the West African nation, during which dozens of people were killed.
Signs of a looming electoral dispute began to appear during the vote, however, when Diallo told reporters that Conde could “cheat” his way to power.
Opposition members are deeply suspicious of the fairness of the poll, as well as the independence of Guinea’s electoral authority.
Guinea’s security minister fired back that Diallo should “return to his senses”.
Twelve candidates are vying for the presidency, but Conde and Diallo are the frontrunners.
Ousmane Gaoual Diallo, a cadre in Diallo’s UFDG party, said that results at individual polling states were public, enabling the party’s own observers to conduct a count.
“If we are the winners, we will defend our victory,” he said. “We won’t wait.”
Earlier on Monday, Guinea’s government said in a statement that the opposition “clearly intended to create chaos and to call into question the real results that will come out of the ballot box”.
Much of the tension in Guinea relates to President Conde’s controversial bid for a third term.
He pushed through a new constitution in March which he argued would modernise the country. But it also allowed him to bypass a two-term limit for presidents, provoking mass protests.
After decades as an opposition activist, Conde became Guinea’s first democratically elected president in 2010 and won again in 2015, but rights groups now accuse him of veering towards authoritarianism.
Diallo was formerly a prime minister under authoritarian leader Lansana Conte.
He unsuccessfully challenged Conde in both 2010 and 2015, in elections his party activists are convinced were rigged.
Before vote counting began on Sunday, Diallo’s activists said their observers had been obstructed at polling stations and alleged ballot-box stuffing.
Prime Minister Kassory Fofana said that the opposition publishing results ahead of the official results was tantamount to pouring “oil on the fire”.
Mansare, from the electoral authority, said Guinea should publish provisional results within a week.
Guinea’s acrimonious political campaign saw Conde and Diallo trade insults, and was marked by violent incidents in some parts of the former French colony.
But it also raised the spectre of ethnic strife, with Conde accused of exploiting divisions for electoral ends — a charge he denies.
Guinea’s politics are mainly drawn along ethnic lines: the president’s base is mostly from the ethnic Malinke community and Diallo’s from the Fulani people.
A second round of voting, if needed, is scheduled for November 24.