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.
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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Researcher: Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor at Symposium on Obesity, Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome says problem involves more than calorie intake, warns of worldwide health impact 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.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs