Guinea-Conakry goes to the polls with fear of a post-election crisis

Hundreds of thousands of Guineans attended the 15,000 polling stations distributed throughout the country on Sunday to elect a new president in elections marked by fears that a new cycle of post-election violence and even clashes between communities would be unleashed. Although 12 candidates were running, the two favorites are the outgoing president, Alpha Condé, 82, who is running for a controversial third term; and the opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo, 68, who has denounced the lack of transparency of a process that he considers adulterated.

It is the third time that both star in an electoral duel, as it already happened in 2010 and 2015 in the two previous victories of the current president. “I want these elections to be free, democratic and transparent and that everything passes in peace and quiet. We will maintain security in all schools. We call on all candidates to avoid any act of violence, “Condé told reporters after inserting his ballot in the ballot box in the capital, Conakry.

The decisive moment, the official announcement of the first results, will not take place for a few days. Alpha Condé is confident of a resounding victory and has presented during the campaign the supposed achievements of his decade in power: sustained economic growth despite the crisis of the Ebola epidemic 2014-2016, the construction of infrastructure, especially two large hydroelectric dams, and the fight against poverty. For his part, Diallo, from the Peul community against his Malinké rival, has warned of the ethnic division spurred by the president and responds that this growth excludes millions of Guineans who suffer every day the consequences of terrible roads, power cuts and lack of employment.

The voting day has passed in the middle of a relative calm punctuated by small incidents. Not even the heavy rain that fell this Sunday in Conakry has discouraged Guinean citizens who, with their electoral cards in hand, went to the polling stations and patiently queued up. If none of the candidates in the running obtains more than 50% of the ballots, a second round will take place between the two most voted candidates, scheduled for the end of November.

The months leading up to these elections were marked by Condé’s controversial candidacy. Guinea’s constitution sets an explicit two-term limit, but the outgoing president resorted to the cunning of promoting constitutional reform, which de facto puts the tally at zero. This modification was approved in a referendum last March amid the boycott by the opposition and violent incidents. In the last year dozens of Guineans have died in anti-government demonstrations against the third term, 90 according to the opposition.

The election campaign was also plagued by incidents, especially in the Kankan region, one of President Condé’s fiefdoms. His supporters prevented entry to Diallo’s electoral caravan; and the headquarters of the opposition party, the Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea, was looted and burned, as well as shops and businesses of its supporters. “Diallo faced a difficult dilemma, but he agreed to go to the polls still believing that there would be no fair play,” says Gilles Yabi, political analyst at the think tank africano He said.

In recent days, the government closed the borders with three neighboring countries without explanation, including Senegal, where a large diaspora lives, and has put obstacles to voting by mail. In addition, it blocked the entrances and exits of the capital and the use of social networks and the Internet has been very limited. In addition, the opposition has denounced the obstacles to its work of supervising the voting records within the Independent National Electoral Commission.

Situated in the tail of the world’s least developed countries and with more than half the population below the poverty line, Guinea-Conakry, with 12.4 million inhabitants, is nevertheless extraordinarily wealthy. Not only does it have the world’s largest bauxite reserve and its subsoil is rich in minerals, as evidenced by its numerous copper, iron and gold exploitations, but its fertile land and abundant water endow it with enormous agricultural, forestry and hydrological potential. “There is no other explanation for this poverty than the bad government and its two diabolical corollaries, corruption and incompetence,” says the Guinean writer and opponent Tierno Monénembo. The extraction of mining wealth is largely in the hands of Russian, Chinese, Australian and American companies.

From the dictatorship to the third term

The arrival of democracy in 2010 after the dictatorships of Lansana Conté and Moussa Dadis Camara, both overthrown by military coups, generated many expectations. However, Alpha Condé’s first victory that year was already peppered with controversy as it starred in a spectacular and unpredictable electoral turnaround between the two rounds, beating the winner of the first round, Cellou Dalein Diallo, who saw France’s long hand behind it all. that. Condé’s aura as a historic opponent endorsed him among the international community, but his determination now to run for a third term despite the violence unleashed in his country and the appeals of intellectuals from all over Africa threatens to place him on the dark side of history. . “The problem is that there are no clear rules. A few years ago the Economic Commission for West African States tried to establish this limit throughout the region, but the presidents of Togo and the Gambia opposed it. In fact, others were also behind this rejection ”, concludes Yabi, from the Wathi think tank.

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