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Guinea Military Demands New Date for Postponed Vote


Guinea's acting military ruler is demanding that the country's electoral commission set a new date for a presidential run-off to complete a transition to civilian rule. This call to action comes after the military chief met with the electoral commission and both presidential candidates.

General Sekouba Konate said there must be no further postponement of Guinea's presidential poll after the electoral commission canceled last Sunday's vote. General Konate said he is a soldier who keeps his word, and he has promised the Guinean people and the international community that this second round of presidential elections will take place. He said he will not allow that vote to be postponed again.

General Konate said he wants to make clear that the army does not want to stay in power or come back to power after this election.

Guinea's transition to civil rule has stalled, with presidential campaigning suspended for more than one week now. Also, there has been no sign of movement from the electoral commission or the interim prime minister about rescheduling the second round run-off between former prime minister Cellou Diallo and long-time opposition leader Alpha Conde.

Diallo supporters contend that Conde's campaign is trying to delay this poll because Diallo won more than twice as many votes as Conde in the first round. Mamadou Bah Baddiko is the spokesman for the alliance backing Diallo.

Baddiko said the Diallo coalition no longer will support the violation of legal regulations and strongly opposes any attempt to prevent or delay the organization of the second round.

Conde's campaign said problems from the first round of voting must be resolved before voters can have confidence in the results of a run-off. This includes the distribution of new voter cards, the public posting of voter lists, and the establishment of more than 1,000 new polling stations in rural areas.

The International Crisis Group said Guinea must move quickly to avoid a repeat of street clashes between Diallo and Conde supporters that led to the suspension of campaigning. Ibahima Fall, who leads the Crisis Group delegation in Guinea, said the recommendations that were endorsed must be scrupulously applied and a date must be set as soon as possible for the second round.

Diallo says he will accept a delay of no more than three weeks. Election observer Latif Haidara agrees with Diallo's insistence that electoral rules not be ignored, but is concerned by his party's threat that delay beyond three weeks could lead to violence. He said that while electoral laws must be respected, he disagrees with the second part of Diallo's party's declaration that if the law is not respected, so-called "tough means" must be used to make the law respected. Haidara said everywhere he has seen those "tough means" used - in Rwanda, in Kenya, and in Ivory Coast - it has never produced positive results.

General Konate has been trying to stay out of this dispute, saying the vote is a matter for civilians to decide, not the army. But Konate now is involving himself more directly in the electoral standoff because it threatens the process of returning Guinea to constitutional order after nearly two years of military rule.


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