News / Africa

Guinea Braces for Parliamentary Vote

A soldier takes photos while women look at the remains of a house that was burnt down during communal violence ahead of elections in the Taouyah neighbourhood of Guinea's capital Conakry, Sep. 25, 2013.
A soldier takes photos while women look at the remains of a house that was burnt down during communal violence ahead of elections in the Taouyah neighbourhood of Guinea's capital Conakry, Sep. 25, 2013.
TEXT SIZE - +
Reuters
— Parliamentary elections in Guinea on Saturday officially cap the mineral-rich West African country's return to civilian rule after a 2008 coup, but many fear that the vote could reignite violence that killed dozens of people earlier this year.
 
The contest, two years overdue, is ostensibly for the 114 seats to Guinea's National Assembly, but with no single party expected to command an outright majority, political deal-making is sure to follow.
 
And in a country where the president holds the real power, the parliamentary poll is widely seen as a warm-up to the 2015 vote when incumbent Alpha Conde's five-year mandate ends.
 
“They are all playing for the first round of 2015,” said a Conakry-based diplomat. “How do the presidential dividends weigh up against the frustrations of the first few years?”
 
During decades of misrule, Guinea's vast wealth of bauxite, iron ore, gold and diamonds has failed to translate into prosperity and progress for the country of 11.5 million people.
 
When Conde won the 2010 presidential race following two years of chaotic military rule, many were optimistic for change.
 
It coincided with planned multi-billion-dollar investments in projects by mining firms like Rio Tinto and Vale , who want to tap into vast iron ore reserves.
 
But subsequent political instability caused by sometimes deadly protests over preparations for the weekend election, coupled with a collapse in metals prices and Guinea reviewing mining deals, have led to progress stalling and investor interest cooling.
 
“Virtually nothing has changed. In politics, they just say things to make people vote for you,” said Alpha Ba, a resident in the rubbish-strewn, potholed seaside capital of Conakry.
 
“If we have a National Assembly, may be more people will have confidence. You know, foreign people don't come to countries where there is instability,” he added.
 
Sanction vote?
 
Saturday's vote pits a coalition based on Conde's RPG party against an opposition alliance centered around Cello Dalein Diallo, leader of the UFDG party, who Conde edged out in the 2010 presidential runoff.
 
The RPG's yellow banners and flags dominate the capital and posters adorned with pictures of gleaming new hotels and dams under construction proclaim “Guinea is moving forward.”
 
Damatang Albert Camara, spokesman for Conde's government, said tensions in the capital aside, many Guineans were for the first time enjoying paved roads, solar panels and support for farming. “These are tangible results,” he added.
 
Conde's camp argues it has had to balance delivering quick fixes with pushing through the deep reforms needed in a country crippled by a chronically weak administration.
 
Under Conde, Guinea's debt has been cut by nearly $2 billion and inflation is expected to fall to single digits, according to the IMF. Despite a contraction in mining, economic growth is forecast at 4.5 percent in 2013 and 5.2 percent in 2014.
 
A successful vote would also free up 140 million euros in EU aid.
 
However, groups of Diallo supporters lean out of the windows of taxis chanting “Three years ... nothing” in a city of glaring inequality that is hobbled by power cuts.
 
Opposition leaders say the lack of results and investor concerns highlight Conde's inability to adapt from veteran opposition leader in exile to president of a fractious nation.
 
“Given this government has worked so badly, we believe this will be a vote to punish it,” said Sidya Toure, an opposition leader.
 
In the immediate run up to the election, campaigning had been largely peaceful. However, protests over preparations for the vote killed dozens in May, while some 100 more people died in separate ethnic clashes in July in the volatile southeastern Forest region.
 
Conde draws heavily on the ethnic Malinke population for his support base while Diallo is seen as the Peul candidate.
 
Unemployed young people make up the bulk of those campaigning on behalf of the parties, and Security Minister Madifing Diane conceded on Wednesday that Guineans would be voting amid deep tensions.
 
But he declined to comment on French media reports quoting French and U.S. intelligence flagging an imminent coup, other than to say that the authorities had been aware of the issue for months.
 
However, he did tell a press conference that protests were being engineered from outside the country.
 
“Guinea is in danger, but the strings are being pulled abroad,” he said, without giving any further details.
 
Coalition building
 
After months of wrangling, the opposition last weekend accepted a four-day delay in the vote to allow time to fix errors to election registers and the positioning of polling stations which they complained had favored Conde.
 
“But we will not accept it if the conditions on voting day are not right,” opposition leader Toure said. The opposition has long accused the election commission of favoring Conde.
 
Africa Practice, a U.K.-based consulting firm, forecast that Conde's RPG would secure 45 seats, Diallo's UFDG 42 seats, while Toure's UFR would win nine seats.
 
The remaining 18 seats, it predicted, would be won by other parties, and post-election coalition building would determine the make-up for the future parliament.
 
Opposition parties say their presence in parliament will bring checks and balances and therefore improved governance. Conde's camp, meanwhile, fears this will translate into them blocking progress ahead of the 2015 presidential vote.
 
“Although power will remain firmly with the executive president, an elected parliament will formalize the opposition's role and give its activities a platform. This in turn will ease political tensions,” said Trent Baldacchino, Africa Risk Consulting's West Africa analyst.
 
Baldacchino said this would reduce Guinea's international political and business risk profile, possibly unlocking financing for mine infrastructure and exploration and enabling miners to plan for the long-term despite the downturn.

You May Like

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

John the XXIII and John Paul II will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square on April 27 More

Thailand Reacts to Plots Targeting Israelis

Authorities hope arrest of two Lebanese suspects will disrupt plot to attack young Israeli tourists More

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

'Once Upon a Forest' takes viewers deep into heart of tropical rainforest More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Churchi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 22, 2014 4:14 PM
On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Robotic Mission Kicks Up Lunar Dust

A robotic mission to the moon was deliberately crashed onto the lunar surface late last week, but not before scientists had collected data gathered by the spacecraft which was designed to self-destruct. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports on the preliminary findings of the craft, called LADEE - an acronym for Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer.
Video

Video Boko Haram Claims Responsibility for Bombing in Nigerian Capital

The Nigerian militant group known as Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for a bombing in the capital on April 14th that killed 75 people. In the video message, Abubakar Shekau, the man who says he ordered the bombing, says nothing about the mass abduction of more than 100 teenage girls, most of whom are still missing. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Abuja.
Video

Video Ukraine Developments Hang Over Obama Trip to Asia

President Barack Obama's trip to Asia this week comes as concerns over Beijing's territorial ambitions are growing in the region. Those concerns have been compounded by Russia's recent actions in Ukraine and the possibility that Chinese strategists might be looking to Crimea as a model for its territorial disputes with its neighbors. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid