Six million Guinean voters went to the polls yesterday, October 11, to elect their president for the next five years. Incumbent President Alpha Conde of the Rassemblement du Peuple de Guinee (RPG) ran for a second term. Conde faced off against Cellou Dalein Diallo of the Union des Forces Democratiques de Guinee (UFDG) and six other candidates. Cellou Dalein came second in the hotly contested presidential run-off of December 2010 which Conde won narrowly with 52.5 percent of the vote. If none of the candidates wins an absolute majority in Sunday’s election, Guinea could again face a second round presidential poll in a tense political context. Five of the candidates in this year’s poll also ran in 2010.
While the electoral campaign was largely peaceful, tensions heated up significantly in the last two days ahead of election day, as the candidates returned to Conakry from their campaigns in the regions and their supporters came out in the thousands to greet their return. Three people were killed on October 9th, as RPG and UFDG supporters clashed in Conakry. Clouds of smoke rose against the horizon as shops and cars burned in the Madina neighborhood. That same evening, the constitutional court threw out a request by the 7 opposition candidates to postpone the election to give time to address problems with printing and distribution of voter cards and other concerns. The 7 opposition candidates immediately issued a statement threatening to not accept the election results under these conditions.
Despite these tensions, election day was largely peaceful. Overall, calm prevailed, though many polling stations opened late and there were problems with missing ballots and other material, notably in the region of Nzerekore and in the commune of Ratoma in Conakry. Also, voter lists with names in no logical order slowed down the process and made tempers rise. “The election commission was not as ready as it claimed,” was the midday assessment by the EU observer delegation. To address some of these problems, the election commission issued five special orders during the day, including to allow people with voter cards whose names were not on the polling unit list to vote; to allow ballots to be cast without being inserted in an envelope; and to extend the close of the vote from 6 pm to 8 pm. The network of Guinean election observers “Regard Citoyen” noted that some of these decisions contradict the electoral code. “Regard Citoyen” will issue its preliminary statement on the entire election process on Tuesday, October 13, based on reports from 6,000 observers.
Politics and political parties in Guinea are highly influenced by regional and ethnic identification. The two largest ethnic groups are the Peul (40 percent of the population) and the Malinke (30 percent). The third largest group is the Soussou (20 percent), and the remaining 10 percent are scattered among smaller ethnic groups. Ethnic groups are geographically concentrated. The main political parties and presidential candidates tend to be closely associated with a particular region/ethnic group. The two principal candidates – Alpha Conde and Cellou Dalein – belong to the two main ethnic groups, Malinke and Peul, respectively.
The 2010 presidential poll was marred by significant violence and clashes principally between supporters of Alpha Conde and Cellou Dalein, in many cases taking on ethnic overtones and pitting Malinke against Peul. At least 7 people were killed and election-related violence persisted in the lead-up to the 2013 poll, leaving 50 people dead.
With the 2010 and 2013 violence in fresh memory, there is concern that the declaration of election results could lead to renewed clashes between supporters of Alpha Conde and of opposition candidates. Participants in the live coverage of election night on national Guinean TV (RTG) repeatedly called for “peace and serenity.” While awaiting the election commission’s preliminary results the website http://www.guineevote.com/vote/ provides regular news updates, incident reporting and results from individual polling units as they become available.