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November 02, 2012

Guinea's Electoral Commission Faces Challenges

by Nancy Palus

Guinea's electoral commission is sworn in and ready to begin moving the country to long-delayed legislative elections. The opposition, which has contested the commission's membership, took part in Thursday's swearing-in, but says major hurdles remain before Guinea can hold a free, transparent poll.

The government-decreed membership list, which sparked a protest when it was released on Monday, includes nine of the 10 people delegated by the opposition.
 
Under Guinean law the commission is to have 10 members from the ruling party, 10 from the opposition.
 
Fodé Oussou Fofana, vice president of the UFDG party, and a leading member of Guinea's opposition coalition, says the government's move was aimed at provoking the opposition.  The government wants to give the international community the impression that the opposition does not want to go to elections.   Fofana adds that this is in part why the opposition decided to participate in the launch of the electoral commission.
 
Still, opposition members say the commission does not yet conform to the law and they will continue their appeal to get their 10th member included.
 
Beyond membership issues, though, a longstanding grievance of the opposition remains, the company that will manage electoral lists.  Guinea's opposition for months has argued that the current operator was unilaterally hand-picked by President Alpha Condé and must be replaced.
 
Opposition leader Fodé Oussou Fofana says the new electoral commission must select an operator based on a consensus.  We will not accept that the government impose a tainted, unfair electoral list.
 
Opposition leaders say this must be one of the electoral commission's first priorities.
 
For its part the Guinean government says it is committed to an election that will be free, fair and transparent.
 
Guinea was to have elected a parliament six months after President Condé came to power at the end of 2010.  The incomplete political transition has some donors suspending development assistance.  

Guineans say they are eager to see the country break out of political deadlock and move on. Diomandé Ibrahima, a university student in Conakry says that people welcomed the news that the electoral commission is finally getting underway. Guineans are keen to see these elections finally happen, he says.
 
On Thursday, after members of the commission were sworn in, they elected Bakary Fofana commission president.  Long active in Guinean civil society, Fofana was a minister in a transitional government in 2010.
 
The commission must now come up with a timeline for legislative elections.