Protest-hit Guinea sets February date for parliament election

People march during a protest over a suspected effort by President Alpha Conde to seek a third term in Conakry, Guinea October 24, 2019. — Reuters pic
People march during a protest over a suspected effort by President Alpha Conde to seek a third term in Conakry, Guinea October 24, 2019. — Reuters pic

CONAKRY, Nov 10 — Guinea’s electoral commission has announced a long-delayed parliamentary election will be held in February next year, with tensions high after deadly clashes during opposition protests.

The poor West African nation has been shaken by violence during weeks of demonstrations over opposition suspicions that President Alpha Conde is seeking to prolong his rule. 

The head of the country’s electoral commission, Amadou Salif Kebe, said in a statement yesterday that a parliamentary election would go ahead on February 16, 2020.

But uncertainty remained over whether the poll would go ahead on that date after previous delays and lingering concerns over the electoral roll.

In September the commission head had proposed the parliamentary vote be held on December 28, a date the opposition condemned as unrealistic and in the interest of Conde seeking a constitutionally-banned third term in office next year. 

The International Organisation of Francophonie, which is helping implement recommendations for auditing the electoral roll, said the December 28 date needed “to be reconsidered”.

The current parliament started its five-year term in January 2014 and an election had been due in late 2018 or earlier this year.

But the vote was delayed after heated debates between the government and opposition. In January Conde extended the current parliament’s term indefinitely. 

The electorial commission said yesterday it had unanimously approved the February date.

Commission head Salif Kebe said a review of the electoral roll had begun and the results were “very comforting”.

Conde, 81, became Guinea’s first democratically-elected president in 2010, but critics say his rule has been marred by a growing crackdown on dissent.

The president, whose second term ends next year, launched constitutional consultations in September, saying the former French colony’s basic law “concentrates corporate interests” and needed reform.

The opposition, fearing the president will try to push through an amendment allowing him to seek a third term, took to the streets.

At least 16 civilians and a police officer have been killed in bloody clashes since the protests began in mid-October, according to the opposition, with dozens injured and arrested.

Conde has neither confirmed nor denied his intention to seek a third term. — AFP