Voting closes in peaceful elections in Guinea after tense campaign

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.

Guinea’s election – the first in a string across West Africa – followed a tense campaign marked by insults traded between President Alpha Condé and his leading rival. .

About 5.4 million people were registered to vote, and the first results are expected to be announced in a few days.

Ten other candidates besides Condé and Diallo contested the vote. A second round of voting is scheduled for November 24, if necessary.

Voting closed at 18 local time after a largely calm voting day, but there is already fear of disagreement after the election.

“Alpha Condé cannot give up his desire to preside over his life,” Diallo told reporters on Sunday, warning his rival not to seize power through “cunning and violence”.

Security Minister Albert Damantang Camara told AFP that there had been “no major incidents” on Sunday, but that he was concerned about proposals that Diallo would not accept the result.

He urged him to “return to his senses.”

‘We want peace, not a fight’

Mohamed Fode Camara, an employee of the Ministry of Social Affairs, said he “feared the day the results will be published”.

“God will save us, inshallah,” he said, adding that Guineans “want peace, not a struggle.”

Much of the tension in Guinea relates to a new constitution, which Condé pushed through in March in contrast to mass protests, arguing that it would modernize the country.

Guinean President Alpha Condé concludes his re-election campaign at a meeting in the capital Conakry on 16 October 2020. © REUTERS stringer

The move controversially allowed him to circumvent a two-term limit for presidential terms.

After decades as an opposition activist, Condé became Guinea’s first democratically elected president in 2010 and won again in 2015, but rights groups now accuse him of swinging against authoritarianism.

Wearing a white and white suit, the president cast his ballot in a school for the deaf, saying he wanted a “free, democratic and transparent” election without violence.

Diallo, 68, was former prime minister under authoritarian leader Lansana Conté.

He cast his vote dressed in a white cloak in the Conakry suburb of Dixinn, an opposition castle. Earlier, he had urged his supporters to “show restraint”.

String of West Africa votes

Condé and Diallo have encountered twice before in tense polls in 2010 and 2015, but this year was particularly crowded.

The old rivals traded bitter insults on the campaign track. Diallo often raised the question of Condé’s age, urging him to “retire with dignity.”

Main opposition candidate Cellou Dalein Diallo gestures to supporters in Conakry on October 15, 2020. © Cellou Binani, AFP

But the eight-year-old president brushed his jibs and often reminded feverish crowds of Diallo’s time under the autocrat Conté.

Condé claims that he has modernized the nation of 13 million people and this year adopted tactics from previous campaigns and told voters that he would make Guinea “Africa’s second (economic) power after Nigeria”.

But despite rich deposits of bauxite, gold and diamonds and abundant freshwater supplies, Guinea is still a poor country.

Sunday’s vote marks the start of a busy election cycle across West Africa with votes also to be held in 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 Ivory Coast, for example, President Alassane Ouattara is running for a third term on October 31 after revising the constitution despite fierce opposition.

( Jowharwith AFP)