GUINEA: Background brief on presidential elections 1998.12.08

GUINEA: Background brief on presidential elections 1998.12.08

GUINEA: Background brief on presidential elections

ABIDJAN, 8 December (IRIN) - The second multi-party presidential election in the history of Guinea takes place on Monday 14 December with five candidates vying for the post. Lodged next to the conflict-torn countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea Bissau, Guinea held its first multi-party presidential polls five years ago, which "legalised" the position of General Lansana Conte who seized power in a military coup in April 1984. Observers note that this time, opposition leaders are attempting to organise themselves to end what they view as Conte's "ethnocentric" regime.

An electoral commission, the Haut Conseil aux affaires electorales (HCE) has been set up to supervise and control the election process. Reporting to the interior ministry, the HCE - which is made up of 68 representatives from various ministries, political parties and civil society - will handle all electoral procedures up to the announcement of the results and is intended the ensure the transparency of the poll, according to 'Jeune Afrique Economique'.

However, 'Le Nouvel Afrique Asie' says no-one should be fooled by the establishment of such a body , "so interwoven are the state and the ruling Parti de l'unite et du progres (PUP)" of Lansana Conte. The 1993 elections were flawed, characterised by "flagrant irregularities", the magazine added. After an attempted coup by disgruntled military officers in 1996, Conte became increasingly autocratic, reneging on his promise to appoint a "representative" government following the 1993 elections.

Guinea, which gained independence from France in 1958, was led by Ahmed Sekou Toure and his Parti democratique de Guinee (PDG) until his death in 1984 and the country still bears the scars of his centrally planned economy, despite 13 years of IMF-inspired reforms, the Economist Intelligence Unit points out. These days mining is Guinea's main revenue-earner but the poor condition of former state-owned enterprises has discouraged investment in the country's privatisation programme and less than five percent of GDP is derived from manufacturing.

Regional analysts told IRIN the opposition is trying hard to put up a united front against Conte, in a country where multi-partyism has served to polarise ethnic allegiances. One of the major opposition parties, the Union pour le progres et le renouveau (UPR), was born from the fusion of the Union pour la nouvelle republique (UNR) led by Mamadou Ba and the Parti du renouveau et du progres (PRP) of Siradiou Diallo. The latter agreed to withdraw his presidential candidacy on condition he was given major responsibility in the new party.

'Africa Confidential' writes that Conte is "determined" to win the elections and says the PUP is so confident of victory that no provision has been made for a second round of voting, which would be necessary if no party wins 50 percent of the vote first time round. "The result may not be in question but the means used to obtain it are," 'Africa Confidential' says. The main opposition parties have already cried foul and said they will not accept the results. They say that a week ahead of the polls, only 40 percent of voter cards have been distributed and most of these have been handed out to government supporters and not in opposition strongholds.

In the months leading up to elections, the government has cracked down on the opposition, jailing Mamadou Ba for "inciting racial hatred and violence" and arresting supporters of the other main opposition party, the Rassemblement du peuple guineen (RPG). The RPG leader, Alpha Conde, earlier this month returned to the country from Senegal where he has been in self-exile following alleged death threats. Observers in Conakry describe the run-up to the elections as increasingly tense. On 5 December, the authorities sealed the country's land borders and these will remain closed until 20 December. A Conakry journalist said the government had given no official reason for the closure, but stressed it was worried by the frequent rebel incursions from Guinea's strife-torn neighbours.

Presidential candidates:

Lansana Conte. Current president and leader of the Parti de l'unite et du progres (PUP). Also defence minister since 1996. Has led Guinea since 1984 and analysts believe it is likely he will be returned to power, given Guineans' apathy towards the poll and their "resignation" towards Conte's continued rule.

Alpha Conde. Leader of the Rassemblement du peuple de Guinee (RPG). Recently returned from self-imposed exile in Senegal.

Mamadou Ba. Leader of the Union pour le progres et le renouveau (UPR). This new party, formed from the Union pour la nouvelle republique (UNR) and the Parti du renouveau et du progres (PRP), is said to have a large following in the Fouta-Djallon region.

Jean-Marie Dore. Leader of the Union pour la prosperite de la Guinee (UPG)

Charles Pascal Tolno. Leader of the Parti du peuple de Guinee (PPG)

The last two have a small following and are not considered significant players in the elections. The RPG and UPR are united in an alliance known as the Coordination de l'opposition democratique (CODEM).


Date: Tue, 8 Dec 1998 16:58:03 +0000 (GMT) From: UN IRIN - West Africa <> Subject: GUINEA: Background brief on presidential elections 1998.12.08

Editor: Ali B. Dinar,