In DepthThe QuestionGuinea: New elections, but when?


Posted on Tuesday, 21 September 2010 11:44

Guinea: New elections, but when?


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Guinean authorities are hard-pressed to sort out problems in election oversight before tensions in the streets make peaceful elections an impossibility.


Irregularities in the June first round of presidential elections, continued problems at the electoral commission and tensions on the streets threaten to derail and delay Guinea's return to civilian rule. In the run-up to the original date for the run-off election on 19 September, street battles led to the death of one person and injuries for more than 50 others. Before the elections were delayed, interim prime minister Jean Marie Doré said that “the priority must be given to public order.” Analysts worry that should the delays drag on, they will raise fears of electoral manipulation and further increase the risk of tensions.


The Commission Electorale Nationale Indépendante (CENI) has been in crisis since the first round of polls in June. On 15 September, the CENI decided that the second round could not be held on 19 September. CENI directors said that the materials needed for the elections were not in place and that they would require at least another two weeks to make the proper arrangements. That said, they promised to hold a meeting on 16 September to announce a new election date. The CENI postponed the meeting and did not say when the polls could be held, postponing them indefinitely. The government had said that it wanted to set up 1,250 new polling stations to facilitate voting in some of the more distant parts of the country.


The CENI has been in disarray for several weeks. Two weeks before the elections were to be held, courts found CENI president Ben Sekou Sylla guilty of fraud in the organisation of the June polls. He then died several days later in Paris. Naming a replacement has not made electoral preparations any smoother. Presidential candidate Alpha Condé complained that Aminata Mame Camara, Sekou Sylla's deputy and replacement, was too close to the other candidate, Cellou Dalein Diallo. Condé's camp has demanded a new leader at the CENI, the creation of new voting stations and the publication of voters' lists before the candidate will agree to a new round of voting.


Dozens of candidates ran in the first round of the vote on 27 June, but the results left two top contenders to battle for the presidency, as neither candidate got the absolute majority needed to prevent a second round. Alpha Condé, the candidate for the Rassemblement du Peuple de Guinée (RPG), scored 18.3% while Cellou Dalein Diallo, a former prime minister and candidate for the Union des Forces Démocratiques de Guinée, took 43.7%.


As the poll leader, Dalein Diallo feels that he has the most to lose from the delays. After meeting with Guinea-Bissau President Malam Bacai Sanha on 18 September, the candidates stated their positions on the deadline for new elections. Dalein Diallo said that they must be held “with the shortest delay possible”, while Condé argued that the candidates should “leave the electoral commission to its work”. Dalein Diallo's party called for the organisation of protests against the arrest of its militants during the pre-second round violence on 20 September, but the call was not heeded. The UFDG also hoped to increase pressure for the announcement of a new date for elections.


Poll prospects raise tensions


After years of dictatorship and ethnic divide and rule, tensions in Guinea are high. The electoral battle is highly ethnicised because Condé is backed by his Malinke ethnic group, while Dalein Diallo is supported by the Peul. While having two political parties could foster stability, competition for control of state power between the country's two biggest ethnic groups poses a threat to Guinea and the region due to Guinea's porous borders, the subregion's history of civil conflict and the ease of smuggling arms and natural resources.


Burkina Faso's President Blaise Compaoré has played the role of regional intermediary, but the differences between Condé and Dalein Diallo are growing. Dalein Diallo had insisted that the run-off had to take place on time, but Condé said that several conditions had to be met before free and fair elections could be held. Under Compaoré's guidance, the two presidential contenders signed a pact to ensure peaceful elections on 3 September, but both claim that they will only be able to keep their supporters in check for so long. The two now disagree as to whether Compaoré's continued intervention. The UN and the African Union have also sent mediators, but the stalemate remains in place.


Military might


With all of these obstacles, the candidates are also worried that any more instability will simply encourage the military to reclaim control of the state. The RPG's Condé said as much on 18 September: “If the elections are not transparent, there will be problems and it is the army that will retake power.”


Interim leader General Sékouba Konaté was in the barracks in mid-September to remind the troops of the need to remain neutral. While most are convinced that Konaté does not want to stay in power, others are less convinced by the less scrupulous members of the Guinean armed forces. Just ahead of the elections, Konaté was fending off threats of mutiny from soldiers who support former military ruler Moussa Dadis Camara, who was shot an injured by one of his aides late last year. Dadis is still convalescing in Ouagadougou and has not ventured a public opinion on the electoral process. With all of the conflicts that remain to be resolved, it will be difficult to organise new polls before mid-October.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 21 September 2010 12:06

Gemma Ware

Gemma Ware

Gemma Ware is business editor of The Africa Report magazine, where she has worked since 2008. She coordinates the magazine's business pages and writes on a range of subjects from the continent's telecoms revolution, to private equity and African stock markets.

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