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Observers Say Logistical Challenges Remain For Guinea Vote

Excitement is mounting in Guinea for Sunday's vote, but election observers worry that delays in preparation pose potential risks to the electoral process.

Guineans will go to the polls this Sunday in what many hope will be the country's first free and fair presidential election.

Information Technology consultant Boussiriou Diallo says there is truly hope regarding these elections and regarding this democracy people dream about. But, he says, what will we do with this democracy afterwards? Will we be a modern state, a state where people and their dignity will be respected? He says that is only achieved by putting in place institutions that can guarantee a number of things.

Hopes for future

The vote is meant to return the country to civilian government since a military junta seized power in December 2008. A successful, credible poll could mark the end of more than 50 years of dictatorial rule in the West African country.

But election observers on the ground in Guinea have expressed concern that logistical challenges remain and could pose problems on voting day.

Election observer for the U.S.-based Carter Center, David Pottie, said election officials have had an enormous amount of work to do in the six months allotted to organize the poll. The compressed timeline, he said, means certain decisions have been late.

"Decisions still need to be made to finalize the distribution of polling stations and then, in turn, the coordination of the lists of voters on the basis of that distribution of the polling stations, which has an impact then on how many ballot papers you send to each place," Pottie said. "All of those intricate, logistical, transport and communication challenges are still unfolding and we are of course very, very close to election day."

Outstanding issues

A final voter list has not yet been published, he said, and as many as 10 percent of Guinea's four million registered voters still do not have voter cards. These issues, Pottie said, need to be resolved.

"Otherwise, there's a real chance that you'll have a lot of people wandering around trying to find their polling station on election day or people still trying to retrieve their voter ID cards," Pottie said.

When campaigning kicked off in May, there were fears of electoral violence and ethnic tensions. But the Carter Center said this week they were encouraged by stakeholders' commitment to an inclusive poll and, what it called, the largely positive tone of the electoral campaign.

"This has been a largely peaceful election campaign. There's certainly an enthusiastic feel. There are 24 presidential candidates," he noted. "That means lots of people crisscrossing the country. That means lots of different regional and ethnic identities are present in that presidential candidate field."

If no candidate wins a majority in the first round, Pottie says there is speculation that ethnic and regional identities could play a role in any coalition building for a run-off between the two top-scoring candidates.