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Politicians in Guinea Oppose Military Ruler Running for President

Civilian politicians in Guinea oppose a push to have the country's military ruler run for president in elections that he has postponed until next year. The country's military chief says politicians are running scared, even before he has formally announced his candidacy.

The coalition Civil Society Forum of Guinea says it firmly opposes the candidacy of any member of the ruling military council in the next presidential election, saying only the return to constitutional order and respect for fundamental liberties can maintain peace.

Jean Marie Dore, a spokesman for the Forum, says the civil society group is determined to stand against what he says is a "military menace" that is compromising democracy and development in Guinea.

The country has been under military rule since last December's coup by Army Captain Moussa Camara. One of his first declarations was that no one in his ruling council would stand as a candidate in elections because the military had no wish to cling to power.

Nine months later, his government says it is up to voters to choose their leaders, with any member of the ruling council or any other citizen now "free to put forward their candidacy for the national election if they so desire."

Captain Camara has not declared his candidacy, but he has thanked supporters for their confidence in calling for him to run and says he will not humiliate them by ignoring their demands. He told a rally this past weekend that no pressure can prevent the military from playing its role in Guinea's future.

Dore says the candidacy of any members of the ruling council would compromise the transparency, credibility, and fairness of a vote now scheduled for January 2010.

Dore says Captain Camara promised to organize free and transparent elections that would not include him as a candidate. Since the military leader is not respecting his own promises, Dore says the civil society forum will not accept his candidacy.

Captain Camara says politicians seems so afraid of the support that he is receiving, it is as if they are lost.

He says the infatuation for him, especially in the capital, is a surprise to political parties. He says those leaders are now wondering what will happen if he formally declares his candidacy.

Captain Camara says those political leaders have made mistakes in the past and the support for him now makes them afraid. He says political leaders in Guinea are saying anything to compromise his candidacy in the international community.

Captain Camara says those who decide not to be candidates and boycott the vote are free to do so. Those who decide to run will be permitted. But he says anyone who tries to make trouble during the campaign will be publicly condemned because no one has the right to block the vote.

Guinea is the world's largest producer of aluminum ore but is one of its poorest countries. The nation remains suspended from both the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States because of Captain Camara's coup, which followed the death of long-time leader Lansana Conte.