Guinean Prime Minister Jean Marie Dore said on Monday that maintaining public order was more important than holding on time a planned presidential election on Sunday, but stopped short of announcing a delay in the poll.
Dore’s comments, the strongest sign yet of a possible poll delay in the top bauxite exporter, follow a weekend of violence between backers of presidential hopefuls Cellou Dalein Diallo and Alpha Conde.
“We are due to hold an election on the 19th [but] the conditions must be right. The most important of these conditions is security,” Dore said on state television.
“The priority must be given to public order as an election is not possible if there is chaos,” he added. Police deployed extra forces around Guinea’s capital Conakry on Monday after street fighting between supporters of rivals in the run-off left one dead and 50 injured over the weekend.
The violence prompted authorities to suspend all campaigning and rallies before the decisive second-round vote on Sunday, but, until now, there had been no word on the possibility of delaying the poll, which is aimed at restoring civilian rule.
The EU and the US, which have both been involved in months of diplomacy aimed at stabilizing the fragile West African state, earlier called on rival political factions to refrain from violence.
A police official said security forces were watching the large Conakry market of Madina where witnesses said stallholders had shut their shops and some had gathered stones for possible use if more fighting broke out.
Madina market is seen as a potential flashpoint as it houses large groups of Guinea’s two main ethnicities — Peuls who largely backed former prime minister Cellou Dalein Diallo in the first round, and Malinke who mainly back his rival Alpha Conde.
No major incidents were reported as both candidates met the prime minister over a possible decision to restart campaigning.
After the meetings, Diallo, who is favorite in the poll, vowed to ensure his campaign remained peaceful while Conde called for greater transparency in the election body, CENI.
Violence flared after a court last week jailed the head of the national election commission and his planning director for meddling with the results of the first round in June.