Hope on the Horizon: Guinea’s 2013 Legislative Elections
Guinea held parliamentary elections on September 28, 2013 – years after the elections were due. The polls, which were previously scheduled for June 2007 and then expected to take place in 2011, were delayed due to a general strike, difficulties in establishing the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) and a military coup d’état.
On Election Day, citizens were eager to cast their ballots and participate in their country’s continued journey toward democracy. IFES Chief of Party in Guinea Elizabeth Côté answers questions on these elections and what they mean for Guinea’s democratic development.
How was the mood on Election Day?
Guinean voters were more than ready to vote on Election Day. The last time they voted for representatives in the National Assembly was in June 2002. Women, men and youth were out and ready early, often way before polling station workers.
The scene at the polling stations was quite touching, considering all that Guinea has been through this past decade. Hundreds of women and men, and a very large number of earnest young people, stood in line patiently, eager to cast their ballots. Some incidents of impatience and frustration were reported, but very few considering the number of voters and reported anomalies.
How was security on Election Day?
In general, the environment on Election Day was peaceful. Guinean authorities established a Special Force for a Safe Electoral Process (Force spéciale de sécurisation du processus électoral, FOSSEPEL) that oversaw the security of the legislative elections. FOSSPEL was deployed across the country to maintain order at polling stations. There were no serious security incidents throughout the day, and Guineans were able to participate in the election safely.
What have observers reported on the election?
More than 3,000 people were deployed across the country to observe the elections in over 12,000 polling places. All observer missions, international and domestic, applauded the Guinean people for turning out in massive numbers to participate in the electoral process. They praised the conduct of voters and polling staff as the election took place in a calm, peaceful atmosphere. Situation rooms and parallel counting systems initiated by civil society organizations also contributed to the overall election monitoring effort.
Observers praised contributions of media and civil society in establishing an environment conducive to open and competitive elections. However, some observer missions were critical of such election management issues as the ill-preparedness of the electoral administration; the voter registration process; the distribution of voter cards; and the shortage of material in polling places, including ballots, results forms, tamper evident envelopes and indelible ink. Although the tabulation process is still underway, most observer missions stated that they did not believe these shortcomings would have an impact on the overall integrity of the election. It should be reported that this was the first electoral experience for the National Independent Election Commission (CENI), established less than a year ago.
When will official results be announced?
The law stipulates the CENI, which is responsible for the organization of the elections in Guinea, has 72 hours to announce preliminary results and hand them over to the Supreme Court. The CENI will begin this countdown once it has received all tabulated results from the 38 constituencies, which could still take a few days.
Once the CENI announces preliminary results, candidates have five business days to contest electoral operations. If no political party files an election complaint, the Supreme Court will declare final results on the eighth day following the announcement of provisional results.
The maximum time allocated for adjudicating electoral disputes is 15 days.
When will the elected take office?
Once the final results are declared, the Supreme Court will convene the newly-elected parliamentarians to be sworn in. It is then likely that they will meet the following day to proceed with the election of the President, and so forth.
What do these elections mean for Guinea’s democratic development?
These legislative elections mark the end of a long and tumultuous transition, which began in December 2007 when a military coup took over the country following the death of President Lansana Conté.
With a new National Assembly, Guinea now has its main democratic institutions in place and will hopefully focus on social and economic development.
Most investors and international donors have been waiting for this milestone in order to proceed with their business. The preparation for these elections has required everyone’s attention for almost three years and has been the cause of intense political instability, ethnic polarization and general instability. If Guinea is able to cross the last remaining obstacle – accepting the results peacefully – it could mean a new beginning for the African nation.