Guinea is holding its first legislative elections in 11 years today in a bid to restore stability in the world’s biggest bauxite exporter amid opposition complaints that the electoral commission isn’t ready.
Thirty-two political parties are contesting the election for parliament, which was dissolved after a military coup that followed the 2008 death of Lansana Conte, who ruled the West African nation for 24 years. While opposition leader Alpha Conde was elected president in 2010, a planned vote for the National Assembly’s 114 seats has been delayed almost two years.
The biggest rivals of Conde’s Rally of the Guinean People are the Union of Republican Forces and the Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea. The opposition has threatened to stage protests if it believes people have been left off the electoral roll and others appear more than once. Polling stations opened nationwide at 7 a.m. local time, Alpha Yero Conde, communication manager at the electoral commission, said by telephone from the capital city Conakry.
“The elections are essential to stabilize and democratize Guinea,” said Mohamed Camara, a law professor and political analyst at the Kofi Annan University in the capital Conakry. “The elections won’t be without criticism.”
Opposition supporters have protested in Conakry several times over the past few months, prompting the International Monetary Fund to question whether political instability may prevent Guinea from achieving its 4.5 percent economic growth forecast.
Security Minister Madifing Diane told reporters Sept. 25 that opposition forces were planning a coup.
“Guinea is in danger and those who pull the strings are abroad,” Diane said, without giving further details.
The government is currently reviewing some mining licenses as it seeks to improve transparency in the industry. Besides bauxite, an aluminum ingredient, Guinea has vast reserves of iron ore, gold and diamonds. Rio Tinto Plc and Vale SA are among mining companies with projects in the country.
“We are voting today because we want the opening of the country to the world so that investors can arrive,’’ Ousmane Camara, a 63-year-old former police officer, said in an interview in a polling station in Gbessia, a Conakry suburb. “We are going to elect members of parliament who can move Guinea forward”, he said.
Polling stations are scheduled to close at 6 p.m. local time with results expected within three days.