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Guinea Opposition Dismayed by Local Election

Guinea's opposition is expressing dismay over the organization of recent local elections, leading one party to quit parliament in protest. Others are calling for a unity government and new elections. But the government is calling them sore losers.

Opposition parties held vibrant rallies in the run-up to last month's local elections, causing hope among their supporters they might fare well.

But when the results came out with just a few victories for the opposition in urban and rural councils, they cried foul, alleging massive fraud for the ruling Party of Unity and Progress.

The only opposition party with seats in parliament, the Union for Progress and Renewal, this week, said it was pulling out of the 114-member assembly in protest.

Other parties had boycotted the 2002 legislative poll, including the Union of Republican Forces, led by popular former Prime Minister Sydia Toure.

He tells VOA he understands the general dismay among opposition militants.

"It's very difficult for them to still believe in democracy because since we began democracy here in 1991, they don't have (fair) results for elections, presidency, elections for Congress and so on. All those elections were held in very bad conditions," he said.

But another opposition leader, Alpha Conde, says he will continue fighting.

He says he continues to hope one day Guineans can benefit from a transparent election process, which he says hasn't existed since the early 1960s.

He says his party took part in the local elections to show that the government's promises to organize a free and fair vote were absurd.

But Guinea's prime minister Cello Dalein Diallo tells VOA he believes it's a case of the opposition being sore losers.

He says everything was done to address previous grievances and that there was a good turnout on voting day December 18. He says it's a tradition in Guinea and elsewhere in Africa for losers to say there was cheating.

During the voting process, though, many opposition supporters said they couldn't vote because they had been unable to get their names on voting lists. Opposition leaders from outlying areas also complained they were prevented from running because of difficult application requirements for them, such as obtaining copies of documents and pictures of themselves in places without any electricity or photographers. They said government officials refused to help them.

In several areas, journalists also reported discovering voting booths inside the homes of ruling party officials.

President Lansana Conte has been in power since a coup in 1984, and recent years have been marked by his poor health, purges within the army, rising prices, a decaying infrastructure and social protests.