Guineans choose president for fear of post-election turmoil
Guineans went to vote on Sunday to choose their next president, calmly but also worried about the violent electoral aftermath when the results were announced, after months of murderous protest against a possible third term of outgoing Alpha Condé.
Polling stations closed at 6 p.m. (GMT and local), before the seals of thousands of transparent ballot boxes spread across the country were broken, as in the small office installed on the street under a dented canopy in the neighborhood of Bambeto, in Conakry.
A few dozen men, women and children took up positions a few meters from the office to hear one of the members in a white chasuble utter aloud each bulletin, the majority ultra “Mamadou Cellou Dalein Diallo UFDG”, the challenger of Mr. Condé, and show it to the public each time.
Even before the start of the counting, the opposition began to denounce ballot box stuffing and obstructions made to the presence of its representatives in polling stations. Prime Minister Kassory Fofana told the press of “small incidents here and there”, nothing “major”.
It is above all the publication of results, whether by the government or the opposition, that Guineans view with apprehension, as the animosity and mistrust are great between the camps of the two main candidates, the outcome of the uncertain ballot and the customary country to drain political antagonisms in the blood.
A proclamation of a comprehensive result by official electoral bodies should be “a matter of a week,” the prime minister said. But one of the risks is that the camp of Mr. Condé or that of Mr. Diallo does not take the lead by invoking its own data collected from the field, including to claim a victory in the first round, provoking the protests of the party adverse with unforeseeable consequences. Mr. Diallo’s party has openly raised the possibility of such an announcement.
– Calls for restraint –
To do so would be to add “fuel to the fire” and create a situation “which will spiral out of control”, the prime minister said.
In an acrimonious campaign, neither side gave any real sign of being ready to accept defeat.
A second round, if it should take place, is scheduled for November 24.
Ultra-secure by police officers and gendarmes having worn a white T-shirt more engaging than their uniform, the first round took place “without major incident”, despite “small problems with social distancing from the Covid” and some delays in opening offices, Security Minister Albert Damantang Camara told AFP.
In reality, the pandemic seemed far from the concerns of voters, overwhelmingly oblivious to the mask in the lines at the entrance to the offices. Mr. Condé, a light suit, had nevertheless given the example by protecting his face to go to vote in a school for the deaf a few hundred meters from his official residence in Conakry.
He called on “all candidates to avoid any act of violence”.
Cellou Dalein Diallo, in white boubou, mask on his nose also at the time of the vote in his stronghold of Dixinn, in the suburbs of the capital, asked “all (his) supporters to show restraint”.
Mr. Diallo, who does not want to relive his failures of 2010 and 2015, accused the ruling party of cheating, because Mr. Condé is unable to relinquish the “presidency for life” according to him.
– “Concerns for peace” –
For months, the opposition mobilized against the prospect of a third term for Mr. Condé. The protest, launched in October 2019, was harshly repressed. Dozens of civilians have been killed.
The number of presidential terms is limited to two. But for Mr. Condé, the Constitution he had adopted in March to, he says, modernize the country resets his counter to zero.
The feverish campaign was punctuated by invective, incidents and clashes that left several militants injured. The importance of ethnicities adds to the volatility of the situation.
“We want peace, not a fight,” confided Mohamed Fodé Camara, a voter in the Kaloum district, saying “fear the day of the proclamation of the results”.
– “Turn the page” –
Nearly five and a half million Guineans were called upon to choose from among twelve candidates to lead this country of 12 to 13 million inhabitants, among the poorest in the world despite its immense natural resources.
The outcome should be played between Alpha Condé, 82, and Cellou Dalein Diallo, 68. One bloody, the other civilized, they clashed in 2010, the first elections deemed democratic after decades of authoritarian regimes, then in 2015.
A former historic opponent who became the first democratically elected president in 2010 after years of authoritarian regimes, Alpha Condé claims to have put back a country he had found in ruins and to have advanced human rights.
Mr. Diallo proposes to “turn the page nightmarish 10 years of lies”, lambasting police repression, corruption, youth unemployment and poverty.
The Guinean vote opens a dense cycle of presidential elections in West Africa, scrutinized with anxiety by defenders of democracy, alarmed by the setbacks of their cause in a sub-region once considered to be a pioneer.
One of their concerns is the use of electoral distortions or constitutional changes.
On October 31, outgoing Alassane Ouattara will also run for a controversial third term in Côte d’Ivoire. Presidential elections are also planned by the end of 2020 in Burkina Faso, Ghana and Niger.
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