M. Continuo

Guinea calls Oct. 11 presidential vote, opposition protests

CONAKRY (Reuters) - Guinea will hold the first round of a presidential election on Oct. 11, the West African nation's electoral commission said on Tuesday, a decision opposition parties called unconstitutional.

President Alpha Conde is widely seen as the favourite to win a second term in Africa's largest bauxite exporter, analysts have said, though he has not officially confirmed his candidacy.

Etienne Soropogui, deputy direct of operations at the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), said that because of Oct. 11 date, local council elections would be pushed back until next year.

Opposition parties said the move breaks an agreement that local council elections would be held before the presidential vote.

"This is provocation. This decision is inappropriate and proves that the election commission is under the orders of Alpha Conde. We no longer recognise this election commission," said Mouctar Diallo, a leader of Guinea's opposition coalition.

Presidential and legislative elections since 2010, when Guinea emerged from decades of autocratic military rule, have been marred by months of violent protests, with opposition and ruling parties divided along ethnic lines.

Regional experts fear political tensions in the iron ore, gold and bauxite-rich nation could rekindle violence in a country already ravaged by the worst Ebola outbreak on record. Some 2,100 people have died from the epidemic in Guinea since December 2013.

Diallo said local elections were supposed to he held in the first quarter of 2014, according to a 2013 accord signed between the opposition and the government. He added that the mandate of elected local officials expired three years ago.

"We have taken the decision to boycott works at the National Assembly. We are also going to restart street protest to force the government to respect the constitution of the country," Diallo said.

The government's press office was not immediately available to comment.

(Reporting by Saliou Samb; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Alan Crosby)