Guinea’s election shelved yet again

Opposition says there are major problems with the electoral roll and accuses president’s party of vote-meddling.

Parliamentary elections in Guinea, West Africa, have been delayed again. They were supposed to take place on Tuesday, September 24, but have been re-scheduled to take place on the 28th.

This is the fifth time the vote has been shelved since it was first scheduled to take place in 2010. The opposition, led by Cellou Dalein Diallo of the Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea party, says there are major problems with the list of registered voters of around five million people.

The opposition also accuses the election commission and President Alpha Conde’s Rally of the Guinean People Rainbow Party of conspiring to manipulate some 11,000 polling stations to give the ruling party an unfair advantage.

Al Jazeera has been invited by the opposition to meet voters who have been issued as many as four or five voting cards for different polling stations for the same person.

Whatever the election commission and the ruling party think of the opposition’s accusation of planned fraud, they did agree to postpone the election by four days to try and resolve these issues. But they both insist that, come what may, they are ready for the election, and it will go ahead on the 28th, no matter what the opposition say.

The constant on-off of this vote is not that surprising. Elections and democracy are pretty much a new thing in Guinea, a country of around 11 million people. After independence from France in 1958 the country was ruled by Ahmed Sekou Toure for nearly 30 years, then Lansana Conte, all under a one-party state, virtual dictatorship. Conte’s passing in 2009 led to a brief power vacuum and brief military take over, but has opened the way for real democracy.

The country held presidential elections in 2010 which saw Alpha Conde take power. But the outcome of the vote remains disputed. Cellou Dalien Diallo won the first round of the presidential vote by a large margin, but lost the second round to Conde. The opposition has been convinced ever since that that presidential vote was rigged. Hence an attempt to rig the upcoming parliamentary vote.

The election commission, the ruling party and the opposition have been arguing about the preparations for the parliamentary vote since the presidential election in 2010. According to Guinea’s constitution, the parliamentary vote should have taken place three months after the presidential election.

The UN and other organisations have tried to negotiate between the various parties to bring Guinea to hold the vote. If Saturday’s election goes ahead, it seems, they would have succeeded. There are still divisions and concerns about the preparedness for Saturday’s vote. And there’s a chance that the opposition may boycott the poll if they don’t think the election commission will hold a free and fair vote. Which would mean another cancellation of the poll.

But the hope and prayer of most Guineans is that the vote will go ahead. But they demand that it must be free and fair if it is to go ahead, and if the outcome is to be accepted.

Worryingly, ahead of the poll, there has been tension and some violence in the capital, Conakry. And at least 50 people – mainly opposition supporters – have been killed in violence involving supporters of the ruling party and security forces since the poll was first set to take place in 2010.