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Campaigning Underway for Guinea Presidential Election

Campaigning is underway for this month's presidential elections in Guinea that are meant to return the country to constitutional order after 18 months of military rule.

What is most notable about the 24 people running for president is that none of them are soldiers. That is at the heart of a regionally-backed transition program led by General Sekouba Konate, who took charge in Conakry after coup leader Captain Moussa Dadis Camara was shot in the head six months ago.

General Konate says there has been much speculation about his role in this electoral process. And he wants to make it clear that he is not a candidate nor is he endorsing any of the other candidates.

What voters want

Presidential candidate Francois Lonceny Fall says this month's vote is a chance for Guinea to end decades of autocratic rule.

Fall says voters want credible, transparent, and peaceful elections that will lead to a real change of regime. A real change in Guinea, that is what he says people are waiting for.

Presidential candidate Alpha Conde says it is time for Guinea to join the world's democracies.

Conde says he hopes these election will be, for the first time, free and democratic, allowing democracy to be established in Guinea and enabling the country to return to its place within the international community.

Military coup

Guinea was suspended from both the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States following Captain Camara's December 2008 coup. The International Criminal Court has opened a preliminary investigation into his responsibility for the deaths of more than 150 demonstrators killed last September in a protest against his running for president.

Political analyst Madani Dia says Guinea's future must be built on accountability.

National reconciliation

Dia says the new president's first task will be to engage in national reconciliation. He says there is general confusion about this reconciliation process, so it would be good for the new president to make clear that its purpose is to improve the judicial system to form the basis of a new non-violent relationship between the state and its people.

Transitional Prime Minister Jean Marie Dore says some of Captain Camara's supporters want to disrupt the vote and are plotting his return from Burkina Faso, where the former military ruler is still recovering from his injuries.

General Konate has already arrested nearly one dozen senior army officers who support Captain Camara and says anyone who tries to undermine this return to civilian rule will, in his words, be destroyed immediately.

New military role

General Konate says Guinea can not lose this chance to rewrite its history and regain lost years. He says the military will show that it can leave power. All the candidates want to win. But if they do not win, he says they must show they can lose fairly.

Human rights attorney Thierno Balde says acceptance of the vote depends on its conduct.

"We know for sure there might be some candidates who might have different arguments about the results of the elections," Balde said. "But if it is free, fair, and transparent, I am sure all of the population will accept the result and we will end up having a legitimate president who will be able to form a legitimate government."

Many challenges ahead

Political leader Bah Oury says the challenges for that government are great.

Oury says the management of the country must be restored because it has largely collapsed. He says that will enable Guinea to sort out its public finances, which is essential to renewing relationships with international development partners.

The transitional government says it is still on course to hold this vote June 27. But before polls can open, the country must still finalize voter lists and approve a new constitution.