Guinea election commission chief dies ahead of run-off

Election commission head Ben Sekou Sylla
Image caption Ben Sekou Sylla died in France, where he had been undergoing medical treatment for several months

The head of Guinea's election commission has died, amid speculation that Sunday's presidential run-off could be postponed.

Last week election chief Ben Sekou Sylla was convicted of fraud during the first round in June, raising the first serious doubts about the second round.

Following a weekend of violence in the capital, the prime minister has warned that security is more important than holding the vote on time.

All campaigning has been suspended.

The first round was seen as Guinea's first democratic vote since independence in 1958, raising hopes of an end to military and authoritarian rule in the mineral rich country.

But correspondents say the fraud conviction and the violence are now raising serious doubts about the credibility of the second round.

The two candidates, former Prime Minister Cellou Dalein Diallo and veteran opposition leader Alpha Conde, held separate emergency talks with the prime minister on Monday and pledged to control their supporters.

At least one person was killed and 50 injured during the weekend clashes, prompting the authorities to ban all campaigning.

"The priority must be given to public order as an election is not possible if there is chaos," Prime Minister Jean Marie Dore said on state television on Monday night.

Image caption Votes cast for Alpha Conde were wrongly annulled in the first round, a court found

Mr Sylla died in France, where he had been undergoing medical treatment for several months. He went back to Guinea for the first round before continuing his treatment in Paris.

He, and one of his senior aides, were sentenced to a year in jail for wrongly cancelling some 600,000 votes cast for Mr Conde in the first round.

Ahead of the poll, tension is reported to be growing between ethnic Peul and Malinke - the two largest communities in the country.

Mr Diallo, a Peul, is seen as the favourite for the presidency after gaining 44% of the first round vote, compared to 18% for Mr Conde, a Malinke.

A member of the Peul ethnic group has never been president and many feel it is their turn after previous elections were rigged.

The Malinke are heavily represented in the ruling military junta, which seized power after the death in 2008 of the autocratic President, Lansana Conte, who had ruled the country for 24 years.

Guinea is the world's largest exporter of the aluminium ore bauxite and also has important deposits of iron ore.

But despite its mineral wealth, most of its people languish in poverty.

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