Guineans elections turn page on years of 'chaos'

Guineans elections turn page on years of 'chaos'
Guinean President Alpha Conde arrives on July 18, 2013 to attend the closing session of the ECOWAS Summit in Abuja. Ivorian President and Chairperson of ECOWAS Alassane Ouattara has confirmed Nigeria's intention to withdraw part of its troops in Mali to service its domestic need as the two-day 43rd Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government has ended in Abuja.

CONAKRY - Guineans went to the polls Saturday in the first parliamentary elections for more than a decade in the troubled west African nation, after months of delays and a campaign plagued by deadly unrest.

Voters have a choice of more than 1,700 candidates vying for 114 seats in a national assembly which will replace the transitional parliament that has been running the country since military rule came to an end in 2010.

The vote, originally due to have been held within six months of the swearing-in of President Alpha Conde in 2010, has been delayed numerous times amid disputes over its organisation, stoking deadly ethnic tensions that have dogged Guinean politics since the country's independence from France in 1958.

"These elections will allow us to emerge from a chaotic five-year transition," Conde told reporters on Friday, expressing the hope that the vote would signal a new era of prosperity in which Guinea would be free to profit from its vast mineral wealth.

Polling booths opened half an hour early at 7:30 am (0730 GMT) in what is regarded as the first genuinely democratic parliamentary election, after 2002 polls held during the military dictatorship and marred by opposition boycotts were widely dismissed as a sham.

The opposition has accused the president's camp and the electoral commission of conniving to rig Saturday's vote, and protests in the capital Conakry have often descended into violence.

Earlier this week opposition protesters shot dead a trainee policeman as renewed clashes broke out across the city, leaving more than 70 people wounded.

Guinea's Muslim and Christian leaders called Friday for a peaceful election day, urged all parties to put their country before their own interests and ensure their supporters did not resort to violence.

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