At fifty-two, Guinea, a novice in what concerns democratic practices, seems to have emerged from Sunday’s first free and independent presidential election unscathed after more then four million voters cast their votes in the West African country. Both the National Electoral Commission and International Observers have declared the the process free of any major irregularities.
Guineans voted massively in the country’s first free democratic presidential elections since its independence in 1958. Marked by a strong participation with over four million registered voters eagerly awaiting their turn in long queues, the country’s Electoral Commission’s decision to allow some polling stations to carry on with the democratic exercise beyond 6 pm, the legal time limit, due to delays, has been lauded by all and sundry. Pathé Dieng, director of the commission, noted that voting queues had been particularly long.
Besides last Thursday’s altercation between members of two parties, Union des forces républicaines (UFR) and Union des forces démocratiques de Guinée (UFDG), represented by Sidya Touré and Cellou Dalein Diallo respectively, that left at least two people dead, according to certain sources, no major incident was registered during Suday’s exercise.
The two parties as well as the Rassemblement du peuple de Guinée (RPG), represented by the historical opposition leader Alpha Condé, could emerge among the top parties in the election. “It is the first time that presidential election candidates have not called for an electoral boycott. It is the first time that an independent Electoral Commission has organized an election. And I assure you that we have not recorded any irregularities…” said Pathé Dieng.
Alexander Lambsdorff, Head of international election observation missions – the African Union (AU) and Economic Community of African States Western (Ecowas), European Union (EU), the Carter Foundation and the Electoral Institute for the Sustainability of Democracy in Africa (EISA) – also confirmed that the voting had proceeded without any particular incident.
And after the Electoral Commission’s call for peace and quiet while reassuring Guineans that “every vote will be counted” and that “there will be no wrongful manipulation of the votes whatsoever”, the wait for the first results has begun. Alexander Lambsdorff has also warned that the election exercise is not yet over and that the observation missions will continue till the final results have been announced.
“The point that all international observers want to highlight is that the electoral process does not end when polling stations close. The coming days are as important as Election Day, because it’s now that vote counting, the centralisation of votes and the announcement of results begin,” Mr. Lambsdorff was quoted by France24 as saying.
After casting his vote on Sunday, General Sékouba Konate, Guinea’s inerim president, expressed “pride” over Guinea’s ability to organize “free and transparent elections” after 50 years”. “I call for unity and solidarity, may the best man win!” He added.
The legal deadline for the release of provisional results is 72 hours after voting ends, and official results are expected to begin trickling in on Wednesday. Having registered 24 presidential candidates, it is highly unlikely that any one of them garners the 50 per cent plus needed to prevent a run-off, which has been set for July 18.
Guinea, a mineral rich country with the world’s largest bauxite reserves, including iron ore, gold, diamonds, uranium, has suffered military juntas and dictatorships since independence from France in 1958. Despite its potential wealth, the West African country is among Africa’s poorest.