Inching Toward Democracy: Guinea’s Election Progress

Publication Date: 
17 May 2012

Since the December 2008 coup d'etat that ended 50 years of authoritarian rule in Guinea, the West African nation has continued its democratic evolution.

At present, the National Transition Council (NTC) serves as the nation's parliament since the former parliament was dissolved following the coup. The NTC, an assembly of over 150 representatives from the main sectors of Guinean society, was established in March 2010 as part of the Ouagadougou Accords. The accord named General Sekouba Konate, a leader of the junta, president of the transition.

In December 2010, Guineans elected long-time opponent Professor Alpha Conde as the country's first democratically-elected president.

Elizabeth Cote, who has served as IFES chief of party in Guinea for 12 years, gives us an update on the nation’s democratic development.

When did the last legislative election take place?

The last parliamentary election in Guinea was in 2002. It had been boycotted at the time by the main opposition parties, including today’s ruling party, Rally of the People of Guinea (RPG), which recently merged with 44 other parties to create a coalition, named RPG-Arc en Ciel.

Legislative elections were scheduled for July 8. Will they still take place at this time?

On April 27, Guinea’s President Alpha Condé announced that, in his view, the legislative elections cannot take place on July 8, as planned. He wants to make sure everything is in place and there is a minimum level of political consensus amongst stakeholders before announcing a definitive date.

Meetings with key stakeholders, leaders of the two main opposition coalitions, the diplomatic corps and the national independent election commission (CENI) confirmed his view.

Guinea returned to constitutional rule in December 2010. President Conde announced that legislative elections would take place within six months. What caused the continuous delays?

The last 18 months have dwindled away in a climate of political suspicion between government and opposition, coupled with major dissention within the CENI.

The new government called for a restructure of the election commission and a new voter registry. This was rejected by opposition parties. After months of confusion and distrust, the unaltered CENI continued preparation for legislative elections. Opposition parties then asked for a series of measures, including dissolving the CENI, ousting its president, greater transparency and a more consensual approach.

A two-month dialogue between state representatives and three major political groups was initiated at the end of the year to discuss issues with the CENI, voter registration and other subjects of discord. Very little came out of it. The CENI has since been carrying on unilaterally, bending the rules to gain time, trying desperately to meet its July 8 deadline.

The president's will to ensure the process is transparent and credible is welcomed by most stakeholders and has created hope amongst observers that the process could move forward with the full participation of the political opposition. For some, however, it will be difficult to accept the process as it stands.

What is IFES doing in Guinea at the moment?

IFES’ current work has provided daily in-house technical assistance to the CENI and its members throughout the country in training, communications and electoral operations. Over 80 technical assistants have been made available to help the central CENI and the 33 prefectural electoral commissions.

Preparation for two national outreach campaigns, implemented by 16 local partners, is underway. Seven regional civic and voter education centers have been officially launched and are operational. In the last two months, centers have reached over 22,000 citizens with information on issues related to the electoral process and an engaged citizenry.

How do people in Guinea feel about the upcoming elections?

Guineans, especially those living outside the capital are tired of political quarrels and wish only to improve their quality of life. This quality of life has steadily decreased during this seemingly interminable transition. Should Guineans be able to carry out this election with a minimum of integrity and dignity, and should a democratically-elected parliament allow for political debate around burning economic and developmental issues, then Guinea will have achieved a model transition.

How is civil society faring in Guinea? Has it progressed over the past three and a half years?

Civil society played a key role in the transition. Several of its leaders are engaged in the transition government, the NTC and the election commission. However, this left a social movement disembodied and disorganized.

The presidential election that took place after the transition left the country deeply divided along ethnic lines. Civil society was also deeply affected, and many organizations lost their political impartiality. It will take time before these wounds heal and the next generation of engaged citizens can take the place of their predecessors.