Guinea holds long-delayed legislative polls

djembe voting
View of voter cards in Conakry on Sept. 26, 2013, on the last campaign day for Guinea's parliamentary elections

CONAKRY, Sept. 28 (Xinhua) -- Nearly half of Guinea's 11 million population are expected to go to the polls Saturday to choose deputies of the West African country's National Assembly (parliament), the first time since 2002.

 

The vote, if successful, marks the completion of a transition where the presidential election was held in November 2010 to end a crisis unleashed by a military coup in December 2008, but the legislative polls have been repeatedly postponed although due within six months of the presidential race.

Main contenders for the 114 parliament seats include President Alpha Conde's RPG party, the UFDG headed by Cello Dalein Diallo and the UFR under Sidya Toure. The election date, last put off from Sept. 24 to give more time for preparation, coincides with the fourth anniversary of a massacre at a stadium in the capital Conakry, where more than 150 people were killed in a protest and hundreds of women were raped by soldiers loyal to coup leader Capt. Moussa Dadis Camara.

 

The country has yet to recover from the trauma, while political and ethnic clashes hit the years since the presidential election was held in 2010. In the run-up to Saturday's vote, casualties were reported between rival campaigners in Conakery.

 

An official statement said "one gendarme was killed and dozens of other persons were injured" in reference to the latest wave of violence since last week. Fearing clashes might derail the much-anticipated legislative election, the ruling RPG, the main opposition UFDG and the UFR rarely spoke in one voice this week, calling for calm and the spirit of civility to ensure peaceful polls. NGOs including the FIDH and the OGDH also made an appeal on Friday for calm, hoping the long-delayed polls would be held under conditions in light of a political accord signed by all parties concerned on July 3.

 

The country, among others, faces ethnic tensions which left 80 people dead and 200 others injured as recently as in July in the southeastern region of N'Zerekore. A rift was witnessed during the presidential election in 2010 between the country's Malinke and Peul ethnic groups, each representing around 40 percent of the population.

 

Conde with the backing of the Malinke defeated Diallo supported by the Peul in the race. Local observers have warned of the aftermaths to affect the ongoing polls and even the presidential election in 2015. Guinea won independence from France in 1958. With an area of 245,857 square km and a population of 11.5 million, the country is known for its rich mineral deposits, especially bauxite, which accounts for half of the world's total reserves.

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