Guineans voted for a president on Sunday, with 82-year-old incumbent Alpha Condé facing his longtime rival Cellou Dalein Diallo for the third time.
Coverage in the West African state ended Friday at midnight, limiting a tense political campaign marked by insults traded between President Alpha Condé and his leading rival.
After decades as an opposition activist, Condé became Guinea’s first democratically elected president in 2010 and won re-election in 2015.
He pushed through a new constitution in March, arguing that it would modernize the country. But the movement also controversially allowed him to circumvent a two-time limit for presidents.
Rights groups have become increasingly critical of the president, accusing him of turning to authoritarianism.
Diallo, 68, now Guinea’s leading opposition politician, was former prime minister under authoritarian leader Lansana Conté.
Occasional clashes between their supporters have erupted across Guinea in recent days, prompting further violence on election day.
‘Retire with dignity’
Cabinet Fofana, a Guinean political scientist, conducted the election as a battle between Condé, who was promoting his post in office, and his opponent arguing for change after a decade of his rule.
“This election will play for Alpha Condé on (his ability) to advance his public policy,” Fofana said.
But Condé’s advanced age will weigh on voters’ minds, according to Fofana.
Diallo raised the issue several times during the campaign and even urged Condé to “retire with dignity”.
However, the sharply dressed president has brushed gibes and carried out a powerful helicopter ride in the country.
Condé spent decades as an opposition activist and was even sentenced to death in absentia by a former autocrat before finally coming to power in 2010.
He beat Diallo to the presidency at the time and pulled the feat out again when he was re-elected in 2015.
Among other things, Condé promised to increase the nation’s economy by about 13 million people and increase Guinea’s deplorable access to electricity.
He has stuck to a similar manuscript during this year’s campaign and promised to make Guinea “Africa’s second (economic) power after Nigeria”.
But Diallo – a self-described technocrat – has criticized Condé’s “catastrophic record” and took to pointing to his watch during the campaign, symbolizing that the octogenarian’s time has run out.
String of West African polls
Guineans interviewed by AFP expressed deep frustration over the state of the country, regardless of their political colors.
The former French colony is rich in minerals such as bauxite, iron and gold and has abundant freshwater resources. However, it remains one of the poorest countries in the world.
Guinea’s vote on Sunday is due to repercussions outside its borders.
The vote is the first in a series of elections planned across West Africa, including Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Ghana and Niger.
Some of the major issues in these elections bear a striking connection with the political debate in Guinea.
In Côte d’Ivoire, for example, current President Alassane Ouattara is running for a third term after revising the country’s constitution. The vote on 31 October will also take place in a very tense atmosphere.
About 5.4 million registered voters in Guinea are due to cast their ballots on Sunday, and the first results are expected to be announced several days later.
Another round is scheduled for November 24th.
( Jowharwith AFP)