Guineans launch delicate electoral cycle by choosing their president

Nearly five and a half million Guineans began voting on Sunday to choose their next president, the first meeting under strain in a busy West African electoral calendar, scrutinized with concern by democracy advocates.

At the Federico Mayor school in Kaloum, an educational oasis on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean in this district of Conakry where the Guinean decision-making centers are located, dozens of voters began to vote with more than half an hour ahead of schedule.

You go in, give your name with your voter card and the agents look for him on endless lists. Then they give out the ballots, we withdraw behind the voting booth, we put the one of our choice in an envelope, then in the transparent ballot box. You then dip your finger in a pot of indelible purple ink, so you don’t go and vote elsewhere.

The weather is nice and a few drops of rain have even fallen, a blessing. The security forces are numerous but remain discreet.

The polling stations must in principle remain open until 6 p.m. (GMT and local).

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This election, the first in a series of five presidential elections in West Africa before the end of 2020, takes place in a climate of tension that raises fears of unrest, especially around the announcement of the results, in a country accustomed to this. let political antagonisms spill blood.

– “We want peace” –

Mohamed Fode Camara, voter in Kaloum, who judges that the outgoing president, Alpha Condé, “has already done a lot”, says indeed “to fear the day of the proclamation of the results. “We want peace, not a fight”.

Twelve candidates are in the running 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 his long-time opponent, 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. Mr. Condé had won both times.

Mr. Condé, the only 4th president known to independent Guinea (in addition to two interim presidents), 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.

“We expect a lot of changes, especially for youth employment,” Alpha Barry told AFP, clear T-shirt, ear flaps on his head, one of the very few to wear a mask. At 37, he says he finished his medical studies in 2013 and still has not found a job.

The 2020 election is not immune to the tensions of previous ones. For months, the opposition mobilized against the prospect of a third term for Mr. Condé. The protest 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 opposition questioned the legitimacy of this Constitution. But Mr. Diallo decided to take part in the presidential election, arguing that to govern, you had to go through the polls.

Carried out by large feverish meetings, the campaign was punctuated with invective, incidents and obstructions, and clashes which left several militants injured.

The importance of ethnicities adds to the volatility of the situation.

– Do not let yourself be “robbed” of victory –

There is no question of letting victory “steal” again, repeats the camp of Cellou Dalein Diallo, who is wary of the bodies deemed to be subservient to power, despite the sending of African observers.

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The Security Ministry warned on Friday that it was “forbidden” for anyone other than “recognized” institutions to publish a result.

“We will do exactly like President Obama. (If) we have our own results, we can make a tweet, ”explains Mr. Diallo’s right-hand man, Fodé Oussou Fofana.

It should take at least a few days to publish a national result.

A possible second round is scheduled for November 24.

The recourse to electoral distortions or to constitutional modifications is among the setbacks of democracy observed by its defenders in recent years in West Africa, once considered to be pioneering.

Following Guinea, presidential elections are scheduled by the end of 2020, in Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Ghana and Niger. From October 31, the presidential election in Côte d’Ivoire, where the outgoing Alassane Ouattara is also applying for a third term, also promises to be at high risk.

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