June (me, “Promise and Peril in Guinea“):
Cautiously optimistic scenes in the West African nation of Guinea as the population prepares for its first free elections in its history, tomorrow. There are 24 presidential candidates, and so far election observers from around the world say everything looks like it’s in order.
After independence from France two military dictators ruled consecutively from 1958-2008, after which the country faced instability and violence (including a large massacre of civilians) under a new military regime, until Gen. Sekouba Konaté – then Vice President of the new junta – took control of a transitional government, in an agreement sponsored by nearby Burkina Faso this past January. He quickly scheduled democratic elections for the Republic of Guinea, pledging to stay out of them himself, and the army has stood down and plans to remain in its barracks during the election tomorrow.
So that’s the promise. The peril is, of course, the unfortunate possible outcome after the election. Even if there is no widespread violence or military intervention in the first-round or the runoff in this election, there is still the possibility of future instability, whether by popular discontent with the slow grind of democracy or by some overzealous or power-hungry military officer. Statistically speaking, from what I have read, the failure rate for developing country democracies in their first couple decades remains extremely high. So the odds are against Guinea.
So, let’s hope for the best, and keep the 10 million people of Guinea in our minds tomorrow. If they pull this off successfully and continue without instability, they could become a seriously strong role model for democratization around the third-world, since the story of the Republic of Guinea is one seen time and again all across Africa and the developing world.
In July, the results came in, with the usual basic fraud allegations here and there, but overall the election was deemed a success. The top two candidates then had to go to a runoff election, scheduled for tomorrow (9/19) and that’s where the trouble finally began.
Supporters of the leading candidate in this weekend’s historic presidential runoff election called Tuesday for Guinea’s prime minister to step down, as doubts grew about whether the West African nation would go ahead with the vote.
[…] Over the weekend, street fighting between supporters of rival political parties left one person dead and 54 others wounded.
Only days before Sunday’s vote, hundreds of thousands of voting cards have not yet arrived and the trucks needed to transport materials to distant villages are still idling at a warehouse in the capital.
Supporters of front-runner Cellou Dalein Diallo accused Prime Minister Jean-Marie Dore of favoring the underdog candidate and said late Tuesday that Dore should resign or be dismissed from his duties.
The first round of voting in June was met with excitement, but the multiple delays since then have cast a pall over the runoff. Diallo has accused the government of purposely delaying the vote in order to give the No. 2 finisher Alpha Conde a chance to catch up in the polls.
Guinea’s interim president said he fears that the ”republic is in danger” due to ethnic and political divisions ahead of the upcoming presidential election.
Gen. Sekouba Konate’s remarks late Wednesday on state TV marked his first address to the nation since violent clashes erupted over the weekend between supporters of rival political parties that are divided on ethnic lines. The general’s comments also come as the country’s electoral commission has said it would not be ready to hold the much-anticipated presidential run-off on Sunday due to missing voting material.
Current situation, as of Thursday (Reuters/NYT):
Guinea’s electoral commission failed to meet Thursday to set a date for a presidential election runoff, casting doubt on the country’s bid to return to civilian rule. The commission had on Wednesday postponed the election, which had been scheduled for Sunday. Officials gave no reasons for the postponement of Thursday’s meeting.
Argh. So much for the optimism.
This post originally appeared on Starboard Broadside.