BY KATRIN MATTHAEI, 10 OCTOBER 2013
Guinea's opposition is rejecting parliamentary elections held in late September, the results of which are still outstanding. International observers say there were irregularities. Fear of violence is growing.
The rift between Guinea's government and opposition appears to be unbridgeable. The opponents of President Alpha Conde refuse to recognize the validity of parliamentary elections held
at the end of September. They speak of "large-scale vote rigging" and demand that the election should be declared null and void.
Sidya Toure is a former prime minister who now leads one of the strongest opposition parties, the Union of Republican Forces (UFR). In an interview with DW he said that "no condition had been fulfilled for these elections to go ahead."
Guinea is at a crossroads. Will it continue to hinder its own progress towards democratic governance, possibly descending into violence, or will the politicians pull together to find a solution?
"I hope the protagonists will have the political maturity to return to the negotiating table," said Saidou Diallo, a Guinean who now lives in the German city of Bonn. He fears the opposition could implement its threat to mobilise supporters to take the conflict on to the streets.
Fear of violence
In the run-up to the elections, opposition protests left more than 50 people dead. This time, Diallo is hoping his country's leaders will demonstrate pragmatism. In his opinion: "To dismiss the whole election as invalid is asking too much. If at all, this should only happen in those constituencies where manipulation took place on a large scale."
However, the opposition feels its case has been strengthened by statements from international observers from the Union Nations (UN), the European Union (EU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Ahead of the elections, which had been postponed several times, the observers had already noted shortcomings. During the actual elections, there were claims of irregularities in eight of the 38 constituencies. In a report published shortly afterwards, EU observers accused the National Election Commission (CENI) of lacking transparency.
Claims and counter claims
So far CENI has withheld results from a number of individal constituencies. It is still not known who has won in two important districts of the capital Conakry, with more than 700,000 voters.
In the second largest city, Nzerekore, where the opposition is strong, the winner is also not clear. "The election commission has only published 30 percent of the votes cast," said Tomas Caprioglio, deputy head of the EU observer mission.
"People exercised their right to vote. A solution must now be found to take account of the votes of all who participated," Caprioglio told DW. The 10-day deadline, after which Guinea's Supreme Court must confirm the official election result, has long passed.
The government seems unfazed by the criticism. "I pay no attention to it," President Conde told AFP news agency. "The opposition is playing its role," government spokesman Albert Damantang Camara told DW. "In our eyes, the election results speak for themselves. Publication of partial results shows that the election commission has not made any mistakes."
The results in many districts have yet to be released
The partial results indicate that the ruling Rally of the Guinean People (RPG) party is ahead but does not have an absolute majority.
"I don't think anyone thought these elections would be free of problems," said Vincent Foucher, West Africa expert with the International Crisis Group. "It should be remembered what a long road Guinea has travelled to hold these elections in the first place."
The country was ruled by an authoritarian regime until 2003. Coups followed and there were violent attacks by security forces against members of the opposition.
The question now is whether a political solution can be found that is acceptable to both sides. On Tuesday (08.10.2013) the opposition pulled out of talks organized by the UN. International observers are pressing both sides to follow the legal path and allow the Supreme Court to rule on the legality of the elections - and to accept the ruling.
Many of Guinea's 11 million citizens are hoping life will improve for them after the elections. Although Guinea is a country rich in natural resources, such as bauxite, diamonds and gold, it ranks only 178 out of 187 on the UN Development Index.