Existing tensions in Guinea were exacerbated by President Alpha Condé’s abrupt decision to postpone the general election and constitutional referendum that were to be held on Sunday, March 1, citing flawed voter registration. Opposition groups have helped to organize mass protests since October 2019 against the planned referendum on a new constitution, accusing Condé of using the pretext of changes to the constitution to effectively reset the clock on presidential term limits, allowing him to run for a third term despite the 2010 constitution clearly defining a two-term limit.
Why It Matters
Alpha Condé became Guinea’s first president to be elected through democratic multiparty elections since the country declared independence from France in 1958. There was hope that Condé would be an advocate for democratic reforms, but his efforts to extend his rule for a potential additional twelve years raise doubts that he can live up to such lofty ideals. Clashes between security forces and protesters have left at least thirty people dead. This had left some observers worried that an escalation of the political crisis could lead to another coup d’état, like the one in 2008 that resulted in the removal of long-time president Lansana Conté, who had declared himself president after a bloodless military coup in 1984.
What Happens Next?
The Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, opposition groups, and a delegation of West African leaders led by Nigerien president Mahamadou Issoufou have found problems with about 2.5 million of the 7.7 million names on the voter roll, pointing to duplicate registrations and the names of people who had died. And just before the weekend, the African Union recalled an election observation delegation due to a “major controversy” with the voter roll. The increase in names on the roll mainly occurred in the region where Condé has broad political support, which raises questions about the credibility of the poll.
As of this writing, Condé has not announced a new date for the elections or the referendum, but a letter from the Economic Community of West African States regarding the matter suggested a delay of no more than two weeks. Opposition leaders have vowed to keep up the protests despite the postponement; they want Condé to leave power under the current constitution.