RELIEF IN GUINEA AFTER PEACEFUL VOTE

CONAKRY - Commentators in Guinea yesterday hailed the country's first democratic election as "a renaissance" expressing widespread relief at the lack of violence, a day after the historic vote.

CONAKRY - Commentators in Guinea yesterday hailed the country's first democratic election as "a renaissance" expressing widespread relief at the lack of violence, a day after the historic vote.

Guinean journalist Souleymane Diallo said the country's first free vote since independence from France in 1958 was "a renaissance, an important step in the liberation of Guinea".

"Up until now there had never been a proper election in Guinea. This is the first time it was impossible to know the name of the future president the day before the vote," added the editor of satirical newspaper The Lynx.

As counting got under way yesterday, with early results expected during the day, the key question remained of what will happen once the time comes for the military junta to hand over power to a civilian government.

But the mere fact that Guineans could peacefully choose a leader nine months after 157 opponents to the ruling junta were massacred in a stadium in the capital, led to a collective sigh of relief.

"The relief is that everyone expected violence. But that did not take place. It is satisfying for everyone. Guineans were eager to vote," president of the National Human Rights Observatory Mamadou Aliou Barry said.

Guinean historian Boubacar Barry said: "This election is a relief for all the people of Guinea who can finally see the application of democratic principles."

Foreign observers including the European Union, African Union, the Economic Community of West African States and United States NGO the Carter Centre lauded "the commitment of numerous Guinean voters who went to the polls to determine the future of their country in peace and serenity".

In a joint statement, they called on "all the candidates and their supporters to wait for the final results in the same atmosphere of calm and tolerance that prevailed during the election campaign".

The first provisional results are expected tomorrow with the final results due within eight days. - Sapa-AFP

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