Guinea at a crossroad

People are patiently waiting for results from the first democratic parliamentary elections since its independence.

The people of Guinea are waiting for results from the first democratic parliamentary elections since independence from France in 1958.

The vote was held on Saturday, September, 28th. At least 5 million people registered to vote in the poll, to elect 114 members of parliament, across more than 11,000 polling stations.

Some foreign election observers say the vote went reasonably well, and were held in “acceptable conditions of freedom and transparency”. Others complain of significant technical hitches and organisational problems, like a lack of ballot papers at polling stations, and indelible ink for voters.

Four days after polls closed the results have not been announced.

Opposition parties are complaining about this. They’re accusing the country’s election commission of going against electoral laws in not announcing the results they do have. The opposition says the election results were supposed be announced three days after the vote, which was the generally widely held understanding of the electoral schedule. But the election commission now syas that’s not correct. The commission has explained that results will now be announced after all ballot papers arrive in the capital, Conakry.

Helicopters are being used to transport the ballot papers. But with poor aviation infrastructure, it means it could be days before ballot papers arrive in the capital, and are read out. Nonetheless, the people of Guinea seem calm and patient with the delay, despite the frustration of having to wait longer for the results than initially anticipated.

Heavily scrutinised

Many analysts had predicted that violent protests would erupt in the event of delayed elections results. Some might say understandably. More than 50 people have been killed in election-related protests – since 2010. But so far, that has not come to bear. Many are hoping no matter the outcome of the results, the various candidates and political parties taking part in the election will use legal channels to challenge any results. And call for calm among their supporters.

The chances of Guinea getting this election right are high. This election is probably the most heavily scrutinised in recent times in Africa. It has taken Guineas a painstaking three long years to organise the vote. It has been cancelled and rescheduled at least five times before, at the 11th hour. Thousands of international observers have been stationed around Guinea to make sure the elections are free, fair and transparent. And all political stakeholders have their own teams carefully monitoring the election process.

If all goes well, this will be the final chapter of Guinea’s transition from decades of dictatorship and one party rule, to democracy. The country held its first ever presidential election in 2010, electing Alpha Conde as President. These parliamentary elections were supposed to take place the same year, but due to disagreements, it’s taken until 2013 for them to be held.

If Guinea gets this right, it will potentially set this country. not only on the path of democratic stability, but also economic prosperity that often comes with democracy. Guinea is a land of vast natural resources. Its holds the world’s largest reserves of bauxite, used to make aluminum. But more than 50 percent of people live in poverty, and more than 70 percent are illiterate. Thanks to decades of dictatorship, misrule and poor management of vast resources, analysts say. The country’s economy is set to grow by five percent next year. Deeper political stability might increase its economic strength, potentially changing the fortunes of its 11 million people. Hopefully the election results will be announced soon.

Follow Yvonne Ndege on twitter: @yvonnendege