Vote counting is under way in Guinea after a high-stakes election in which the 82-year-old president, Alpha Condé, is seeking a controversial third term.
The election follows months of political unrest in which dozens of people were killed during security crackdowns on mass anti-Condé protests.
Polls closed after a mostly calm day of voting, but there are already fears of post-election discord after Condé’s main opposition rival, Céllou Dalein Diallo, suggested that the president may “cheat”.
“Alpha Condé cannot abandon his desire to grant himself a presidency for life,” Diallo told reporters, warning his rival not take power using “cunning and violence”.
Before counting began, Diallo’s supporters decried ballot-box stuffing and said observers had encountered obstructions at polling stations.
Ibrahima Kassory Fofana, the Guinean prime minister, said there had been “small incidents here and there”.
The results are not expected for several days. Ten other candidates besides Condé and Diallo contested the poll. A second-round runoff vote is scheduled for 24 November, if needed.
Political tensions during the campaign raised the spectre of ethnic strife, with Condé accused of exploiting divisions for electoral ends – a claim he denies.
Albert Damantang Camara, Guinea’s security minister, told the Agence France Presse (AFP) news agency that there had been “no major incidents”, but he was concerned about suggestions that Diallo would not accept the result.
Camara urged Diallo to “return to his senses”.
Mohamed Fodé Camara, an employee of the social affairs ministry, said he “feared the day when results are announced”. “God will save us,” he said, adding that Guineans “want peace, not a fight”.
Guinea’s politics are drawn largely along ethnic lines: the president’s base is mostly from the ethnic Malinké community and Diallo’s from the Fulani people.
Much of the tension in Guinea relates to a new constitution Condé pushed through in March, in defiance of mass protests, arguing that it would modernise the country. The move controversially allowed him to bypass a two-term limit for presidential terms.
After decades as an opposition activist, Condé became Guinea’s first democratically elected president in 2010 and won again in 2015, but rights groups now accuse him of veering towards authoritarianism.