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‘Positive’ Campaigning Seen Ahead of Guinea Vote

A top official at the Carter Center poll observer team to monitor Guinea’s upcoming election has described as vigorous political campaigning ahead of the scheduled June 27 vote.

David Pottie, associate director of the Democracy Program at the Carter Center, said Guinea’s National Election Commission (CENI) faces unique challenges to organize the elections.

“Guinea’s preparations are in somewhat unique circumstances partly because of the very compressed agreement to go to elections within six months of this January 2010. The challenges have ranged from everything from agreeing to revisions of the electoral code, which were only finally promulgated in the third week of May, really about one month before the election,” he said.

The Carter Center said in a statement Monday that it was encouraged by the positive tone of the electoral campaigns that include messages promoting national reconciliation.

It also urged Guinea’s electoral body to address remaining challenges including ensuring that all voting materials arrive in time for the elections, that polling station staff are adequately trained, and that maximum efforts are taken to extend voter education as widely as possible.

Analysts say Guineans are excited to have the chance to choose their leaders in a democratic vote to transition to civilian from military rule.

Pottie said observers will closely monitor how the electoral body will conduct Guinea’s election.

“There would be a lot of attention, as is normal, on the results. There are a lot of questions still about some of the specific technical aspects of how the results will be compiled, how they will be communicated from polling stations to central locations, then on to the National Electoral Commission here in Conakry,” Pottie said.

Guinea’s military ruler, General Sekouba Konate, recently signed a decree setting June 27 as the date for the elections after consultations with the electoral commission. The commission also proposed July 18 for a second round runoff, if any of the candidates fail to win over 50 percent of the total vote cast.

Analysts say the June 27 elections will be Guinea’s first democratic vote since the country gained its independence in 1958 from colonial power France.

Pottie said campaigns ahead of the vote have been largely peaceful.

“The campaigns have appeared to be pretty vigorous. There has been a lot of enthusiasm. You can certainly see a lot of use of radio by the presidential campaign. Increasingly, as we approach the end of the campaign in the run up to June 27th, all of the candidates, who at least have the means, are making the push for high visibility with big rallies,” Pottie said.

The Carter Center said its mission is to assess the electoral process against the Guinean constitution and the electoral legal framework, commitments made last January.

It also deployed what the center described as its core electoral observation team on May 1, with eight long-term election observers joining them on May 23. The Center’s long-term observers will be reporting from Guinea’s four geographic regions of Lower Guinea, Middle Guinea, Upper Guinea, and the Forest region.