The EU has come under increased pressure to force the hand of Guinea’s president Alpha Condé over stalled legislative elections. Martin Banks reports.
Alpha Condé was elected back in 2010 but free and transparent legislative elections and the establishment of a new national assembly have yet to take place. Some €40m in EU emergency support was immediately made available to Guinea in 2010 to assist its transition to democracy.
Guinea also stands to receive substantial financial support from European development funds (EDF) for basic social services but only once ‘free and transparent’ elections have taken place. These are now expected to be held on 30 June but the opposition says it will not take part because of concerns over election procedures.
The opposition leader in Guinea, Cellou Dalein Diallo, was invited by Belgian Liberal MEP and former EU commissioner Louis Michel to attend an ALDE group meeting during this month’s Strasbourg parliamentary plenary on 20-24 May. There is concern he may have to postpone the trip due to current unrest in the country. But, in an interview with Parliament Magazine, a leading member of the opposition explained their concerns about the upcoming elections.
Siradiou Diallo, national secretary for international relations of Union des Forces Démocratiques de Guinée (UFDG), said, “Alpha Condé has been president since November 2010. As his main challenger, our party leader, Cellou Dalein Diallo, recognised his election, trusting his promises that he would organise legislative elections immediately. We did so to avoid tensions and violence.
“Since 2010, elections have been postponed several times and we still don’t have an elected parliament. This gives powers to Condé and his friends to run the country without any balance of power.” He added, “One could see the organisation of elections next month as a positive step in the normalisation of political life but this, in fact, is a smoke screen.”
He pointed out that the opposition has demanded South African firm Waymark be stripped of a contract to revise the voter list. They say Waymark was hired in between the two rounds of the 2010 presidential election when Condé’s vote climbed from just over 18 per cent to nearly 53 per cent to overhaul the main opposition challenger. The fear is that Condé will attempt to rig the 30 June vote by registering more of his supporters.
Diallo said, “We have made clear for months that we would never agree to participate in an election where the voter lists are established by this company which has been involved in many disputed elections on our continent and is no longer recognised as a trustworthy operator.” It is also claimed that Condé breached his pledge to allow Guineans living abroad the right to vote in the election. EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton has recently voiced “concern” at an upsurge in violence in Guinea following “authorised opposition protests”. Ashton demanded a “calmer atmosphere in which sincere” political dialogue could take place.
But Diallo, whose party is affiliated to International Liberal, says that by choosing 30 June at “very short notice” Condé has “blocked all hope that the election will be fair and transparent”. He added, “In such a short space of time, no international election observers could be deployed, no voter list could be revised and no serious campaigning could take place.”
He said the opposition’s message to the president is, “We don’t fear competing against you. Our message to him is show to the Guineans and the international community that you are committed to run a democracy and not another kleptocracy.”
Martin Banks is a journalist for The Parliament Magazine