Will Guinea election be free and fair?

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Protestors flee during clashes between anti-government demonstrators and police May 7, 2015 in Conakry, Guinea.Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Pre-election clashes led to authorities imposing a curfew in Guinea's second largest city of Nzerekore

Voters in Guinea go to the polls on 11 October in what is the West African country's second democratic presidential election since independence in 1958.

Seven opposition candidates are vying against President Alpha Conde, who is hoping to win a second term following his 2010 election, which saw a transition from military to civilian rule.

What's the background?

Guinea, the world's largest bauxite producer, gained independence from France in 1958 under first president Ahmed Sekou Toure, who crushed political opposition and ruled until his death in 1984.

After Sekou Toure's death, Lansana Conte seized power and ruled until his death in December 2008, followed by a military junta and a provisional government that supervised the transition to civilian rule in 2010.

President Conde is hoping to fend off a challenge by his main rival, opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo.

It's the first presidential election since the vast mineral-rich country was hit by an Ebola outbreak that killed over 2,000 people.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
A supporter of President Alpha Conde stands in front of a campaign banner

Who's standing?

The incumbent, Alpha Conde, is aged 77 and hails from the Malinke ethnic group, which makes up 35% of the population.

In 2013's parliamentary elections, his ruling Rally of the Guinean People (RPG) secured 53 seats in the 114-member parliament. The main opposition party had 37 seats, while the rest went to smaller parties.

The run-up to that election was hit by violence, as well as ethnic and religious tension.

In July 2011, President Conde survived an assassination attempt when his home was bombarded by rockets. He was unhurt and suggested the attack was masterminded by rogue army officers.

In pre-poll campaigning, Mr Conde has promised to consolidate stability and social unity, and to promote development.

Main challenger Cellou Diallo, 63, came second in the 2010 presidential elections. A trained economist, he was the prime minister from 2004 to 2006 under President Lansana Conte.

He hails from the Peul ethnic group (sometimes referred to as Fulani), to which 40% of Guineans belong, a community he has repeatedly accused President Conde of sidelining.

Yet ironically, Mr Diallo has formed an alliance with the party of former military junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara, whose soldiers apparently targeted ethnic Peul, killing over 150 protestors at a stadium in 2009. Mr Camara has been indicted for the massacre.

Mr Diallo is the candidate of the Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea (UFDG), and has pledged to prioritise jobs for young people and to give all Guineans "access to health care, decent housing, water, electricity, safety, and justice".

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Presidential hopefuls Cellou Dalein Diallo (L) and Sidya Toure (R)

The other candidates are:

Sidya Toure of the Union of Republican Forces

Papa Koly Kourouma of the Generation for Reconciliation, Unity, and Prosperity

Georges Gandhi Faraguet of the Guinean Union for Democracy and Development

Dr Faya Millimouno of the Liberal Bloc

Lansana Kouyate of the Hope Party for National Development, and

Marie Madeleine Dioubate of the Guinean Green Party, the only female candidate.

Who's likely to win and why?

Mr Conde is likely to be re-elected, given that the opposition has failed to unite under one candidate. He is favoured to win despite Guinea's prolonged battle with Ebola and a slump in metal prices that has stifled economic growth.

President Conde has claimed credit for preserving the country's democratic achievement since his election and keeping the military out of politics.

He initially played down the Ebola outbreak which struck West Africa in 2014, but has since been praised for government efforts aimed at combating the disease.

Mr Conde's main rival has accused him of marginalizing the Peul ethnic group and of sowing division and poverty.

Will the election be free and fair?

Opposition calls for the poll to be postponed due to alleged anomalies in the country's electoral roll have been rejected by Guinea's National Electoral Commission.

The opposition has said that some voters may be disenfranchised as they have not yet received their voter ID cards.

There has been some pre-election violence. Supporters of the two main candidates clashed in the north-western town of Koundara on 21 September. The authorities imposed a curfew in the country's second largest city of Nzerekore, a stronghold of Mr Camara, after violence broke out on 5 October during a campaign visit by President Conde. At least one person was killed and dozens injured.

Interior Minister Mahmoud Cisse has threatened to implement a controversial public order law "to its full extent" to combat electoral violence.

The EU Electoral Observation Mission in Guinea, which will be monitoring the poll, has condemned the violence.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Supporters of Conde's 'The Rally of the Guinean People' (RPG) party gather in Conakry to welcome his nomination on August 11, 2015

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