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Leader
28 Dec 03,, 03:50
Guinea's leader claims victory in re-election bid

Thursday, December 25, 2003

CONAKRY, Guinea (AP) -- Guinea's ailing President Lansana Conte was declared the victor in presidential elections boycotted by this West African nation's opposition, securing a landslide victory with over 95 percent of the vote, according to provisional results released Thursday.

The lone challenger, Mamadou Bhoye Barry, won just over four percent of the vote in Sunday's poll, Territorial Administration Minister Moussa Solano announced over state radio and television.

The victory gives Conte, who has ruled this West African nation since a 1984 coup, another seven years in power.

Conte's win was virtually assured when opposition parties pulled out of the race in November, alleging Conte had no intention of organizing free or transparent elections. The government denied the charges.

The European Union declined to send observers, saying Conte's grip on state media was too tight to allow a fair campaign. All radio and television stations are controlled by the government.

Barry said the vote was rigged, and vowed to contest the result.

"My lawyers are going to do the work. They will file an appeal at the Supreme Court," Barry told The Associated Press. "It is my right to do so and it's the only means I have to contest the results."

Solano said voter turnout was 82 percent. About 5 million of the country's 9 million inhabitants were registered to cast ballots.

Conte, 69, suffers from a severe stomach ulcer and diabetes, and has had difficulty walking in recent weeks. He appeared in public only once during the campaign, and didn't attend his own closing campaign rally in Conakry last week.

Barry's tiny Union for National Progress party has traditionally allied itself with the ruling Party for Unity and Progress in parliament.

Guinea has only had one other leader since it gained independence from France in 1958. Former dictator Sekou Toure died in 1984 during heart surgery at a U.S. hospital and Conte, then an army colonel, staged a coup and declared himself president a week later.

Guinea boasts a third of the world's known reserves of bauxite -- used to produce aluminum -- and has reserves of gold, diamonds and iron ore. But the country remains impoverished, crippled by corruption, inflation and high unemployment.

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press.

http://www.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/africa/12/25/guinea.elections.ap/index.html