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Guinea's opposition leader claims election victory

Guinea's opposition candidate Cellou Dalein Diallo has declared himself the winner of the West African country's presidential election before the official results have been announced.

“Despite all the anomalies of this election ... and in view of the results that came out of the polls, I emerge victorious from this presidential election,” he said Monday, a day after the vote, to scores of cheering supporters who thronged his party's headquarters in the capital, Conakry.

Diallo did not give any figures to back up his claim but said it was based on information gathered by his party, the Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea. The national election commission has not announced official results.

Guinean opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo, centre, walks with supporters at his headquarters in Conakry, Guinea, Monday Oct. 19, 2020. Diallo declared himself the winner after the country held an election on Sunday with Guinean President Alpha Conde seeking to extend his decade in power. (AP PhotoSadak Souici)

Diallo's claim of victory is expected to raise tensions in the country of 12.8 million people.

Diallo, 68, is the main challenger to President Alpha Conde, 82, who has been in power for 10 years and is seeking a third term after a constitutional change in March, which was followed by violent protests.

The two main candidates draw their support from Guinea’s largest ethnic groups —the Malinke and the Peuhl — and past electoral match-ups have seen bursts of intercommunal violence. Ethnic tensions were inflamed during the election campaign so much that the United Nations chief urged Guineans to refrain from ethnic profiling and violence.

Supporters of Guinean opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo cheer at his headquarters in Conakry, Guinea, Monday Oct. 19, 2020. Diallo declared himself the winner after the country held an election on Sunday with Guinean President Alpha Conde seeking to extend his decade in power. (AP PhotoSadak Souici)

In a statement issued on the eve of the poll, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “urged all political leaders and their supporters to refrain from acts of incitement, inflammatory language, ethnic profiling and violence.”

There also were calls for security forces to maintain restraint: At least 50 people have been killed over the past year, as protesters have demonstrated against Conde’s electoral bid, according to Amnesty International.

Conde came to power in 2010 in the country’s first democratic elections since independence from France in 1958. Many saw his presidency as a fresh start for the mineral-rich country mired by decades of corrupt, authoritarian rule.

Supporters of Guinean opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo cheer at his headquarters in Conakry, Guinea, Monday Oct. 19, 2020. Diallo declared himself the winner after the country held an election on Sunday with Guinean President Alpha Conde seeking to extend his decade in power. (AP PhotoSadak Souici)

Opponents, though, say he has failed to improve the lives of Guineans, most of whom live in poverty despite the country’s vast mineral riches. In his final campaign speech, Diallo condemned the high unemployment and human rights abuses of the past decade.

Supporters of Guinean opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo cheer at his headquarters in Conakry, Guinea, Monday Oct. 19, 2020. Diallo declared himself the winner after the country held an election on Sunday with Guinean President Alpha Conde seeking to extend his decade in power. (AP PhotoSadak Souici)

Guinean opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo walks past supporters at his headquarters in Conakry, Guinea, Monday Oct. 19, 2020. Diallo declared himself the winner after the country held an election on Sunday with Guinean President Alpha Conde seeking to extend his decade in power. (AP PhotoSadak Souici)