Guinea waits for second run off vote

August 8, 2010 12:00 am

, CONAKRY, Aug 8 – Guineans have waited over a month for the second round of their first free election since independence, raising fears among observers that this delay could upset a fragile transition.

A first round election on 27 June was hailed as peaceful, but accusations of voting irregularities led to official results being announced three weeks later, and no date has yet been fixed for the run-off.

This week presidents Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso and Senegal\’s Abdoulaye Wade paid separate visits to Guinea to urge politicians to come to an agreement on a date for the second round.

Compaore, the main mediator in Guinea\’s recent political crises, said he hopes the poll takes place "as soon as possible" while Wade compared the process to "climbing a mountain."

"This is the last step that is difficult. Make a small effort to reach the summit (…)," said Senegal\’s president.

The Guinean Social Movement (including unions, employers and civil society) has urged the poll be held on August 22 "at the latest."

"The disturbing silence on the date of the second round is a threat to the transition. The actions of some high ranking leaders demonstrate a clear willingness to jeopardize the continuation of the process," the group said in a recent statement.

The second round of voting, which is aimed at breaking half a century of military and civilian dictatorship, will see ex-prime minister and clear frontrunner Cellou Dalein Diallo face off against opposition politician Alpha Conde.

Diallo, who led the first round with 44 percent has aligned with third runner-up Sidya Toure (14 percent) and Conde, who garnered 18 percent with fourth-placed Lansana Kouyate (7 percent).

Theoretically, everything is in place for the holding of the next phase, which by law should have taken place 14 days after the official results were released, which would have been August 4.

However in order to better prepare and avoid any recurrence of fraud and irregularities as seen in the first round, the national electoral commission (CENI) requested a further delay, which was granted by the Supreme Court on Monday.

Several candidates, including Conde and Toure, accused CENI of having "stolen" thousands of votes in the first round. While the commission recognised "deficiencies" due to its inexperience, it said it had done a good job overall.

Guinean political analyst Ismael Bangoura said: "The postponement of the second round benefits the transitional government which wants to stay in power forever."

A coup soon after the death of president Lansana Conte in December 2008 — whose 24-year military rule followed that of "father of independence" turned dictator Sekou Toure — plunged Guinea into political crisis.

Junta leader Captain Moussa Dadis Camara quickly ran into opposition for attempting to cling to power, and a rally by protesters ended in bloodshed in September 2009 as security forces massacred some 156 people in a Conakry stadium.

Camara then survived an assassination attempt by a close aide and has been living in Ouagadougou while General Sekouba Konate took over as president of a transition government tasked with leading the country to its first free vote.

The analyst Bangoura also accused prime minister of the transition accused Jean-Marie Dore of not wanting "the immediate organisation of the second round because he risks losing his privileges."

Dore has said the most important thing is not the date on which the second round takes place, but its "credibility."

Abdoul Karim Kamara, a former Guinean ambassador to several Western countries, said: "All who are getting agitated, making inflammatory statements, insults … want this election to be postponed until next year. They want the army to retain power."



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