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World Guinea votes in election, with president seeking a third term

16:50  18 october  2020
16:50  18 october  2020 Source:   reuters.com

Old foes: Guinea's president and his 'technocrat' election rival

  Old foes: Guinea's president and his 'technocrat' election rival After 10 years in power, Guinea's 82-year-old president is running for a third term on Sunday, defying tens of thousands of protesters who flooded the streets to try to stop him. A former opposition leader who was once once sentenced to death by an autocrat, critics say Alpha Conde is himself drifting into authoritarianism by plotting to extend his grip on power. In March, he pushed through a revamped constitution that he said would modernise the country, but which opponents cast as a ploy to stay in office beyond the two-term presidential limit.

Presidential elections will be held in Guinea on 18 October 2020. The elections will be held using the two-round system, with a second round taking place if no candidate received more than 50% of the vote in the first round.

Guinea elects on the national level a head of state—the president —and a legislature. The president is elected for a five-year term by the people through a two-round system (i.e. if no candidate secures a majority of the votes , there is a runoff between the top two vote -getters).

By Saliou Samb

a man wearing a hat: Voters await results of Guinea presidential election © Reuters/STRINGER Voters await results of Guinea presidential election

CONAKRY (Reuters) - Voters in Guinea went to the polls on Sunday as octogenarian President Alpha Conde sought to extend his decade in power after pushing through a new constitution that allowed him to run for a third term, sparking months of violent protests.

Alpha Conde et al. posing for the camera: FILE PHOTO: Guinea's President Conde arrives for AU meeting in Addis Ababa © Reuters/TIKSA NEGERI FILE PHOTO: Guinea's President Conde arrives for AU meeting in Addis Ababa

At least 50 people have been killed over the past year during demonstrations against the new constitution, Amnesty International said, and violence erupted repeatedly during campaigning in recent weeks.

Fears of internet blocks ahead of tense Guinea poll

  Fears of internet blocks ahead of tense Guinea poll Internet freedom monitors have their eyes trained on Guinea ahead of its tension-filled election on Sunday, fearing that the government will restrict access to social media to weaken the opposition. The concerns come after months of political unrest in the West African state, where President Alpha Conde, 82, is bidding for a controversial third term. Defying critics, he pushed through a revamped constitution in a referendum on March 22, which he argued would modernise the country, but which also allowed him to sidestep a two-term limit for presidents.

Voters in Guinea are casting their ballots in a controversial election which see President Alpha Condé, 82, seek a third term . Mr Condé was a veteran opposition leader who finally won elections in 2010, marking the first genuinely democratic handover in Guinea since independence.

Incumbent President Alpha Conde is seeking a third term that has already triggered deadly violence during protests. Political tensions are already simmering in Guinea just a few days before a crucial presidential election . Throughout the campaigns, there were incidents of violence and verbal attacks

In the capital, Conakry, dozens of voters queued quietly at a polling station in a primary school whose exterior wall was plastered with posters of Conde.

"I hope that things will happen in peace," said Mariama Camara, a housewife.

"I voted for change," said Mamadou Diallo, a trader.

While no reliable opinion polls are available, many political analysts expect Conde to prevail after he won overwhelming approval for the new constitution in a referendum in March - although that vote was boycotted by the opposition.

Conde, 82, faces 11 challengers, including his long-time rival Cellou Dalein Diallo. Diallo, a former prime minister who finished runner-up to Conde in elections in 2010 and 2015, has warned about fraud and said he will challenge any irregularities.

In Guinea, poverty tests Alpha Conde's economic record

  In Guinea, poverty tests Alpha Conde's economic record Fatou Conte and Diabate Famoro, two low-income workers in Guinea's bustling seaside capital Conakry, are divided on President Alpha Conde's economic success, just one illustration of the controversy over his bid for a third term. Diabate Famoro, the struggling boilermaker, said he hasn't seen the results of Conde's decade in power.The 82-year-old is running in Sunday's election in the West African state after having won two past ballots partly on promises to deliver jobs and electricity to the impoverished nation.

Less than a third of Guinea 's population has access to electricity. Both President Alpha Conde and the opposition's Cellou Dalein Diallo have promised to fix the country's power problem if given the chance in Sunday's election .

The position of president and vice president are elected separately, thus the two winning candidates could come from different political parties. The incumbent president is term limited. The vice presidential election is a separate election , is held on the same rules, and voters may split their ticket.

Conde, who has described the constitutional reform as fair and democratic, says he needs more time to finish major mining and infrastructure projects in the West African country.

"Guinea cannot develop if there is not peace, security and unity. We do not want violence," Conde said after casting his ballot at the Boulbinet primary school in Conakry.

"Those who want to challenge the results must do so within a legal framework, with recourse to the constitutional court," he said, dressed in white and flanked by bodyguards.

Guinea has made progress developing its mineral riches, including bauxite and iron ore, and gross domestic product has doubled under Conde's presidency. But many Guineans complain the mining boom has not ended frequent power cuts and unemployment.

The national election commission said on Saturday provisional results would be published within three days after it receives the last polling station tally. The constitutional court will then have eight days to declare a winner.

The United Nations has warned about divisive appeals to ethnic affiliations on the campaign trail. Conde and Diallo both draw much of their support from their respective ethnic communities.

Guinea has been plagued by sporadic political unrest since independence from France in 1958, often fuelled by ethnic tensions.

Pro-democracy activists are concerned that the election - and a presidential vote due later this month in neighboring Ivory Coast - may damage democracy in a region that had previously won praise for its leaders' adherence to term limits.

Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara, who first won power in 2010, is also seeking re-election, having argued that a new constitution in 2016 reset the clock on the two-term limit.

(Writing by Hereward Holland; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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