Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Guinea: Guinea’s Other Emergency: Organising Elections

Source: International Crisis Group

Guinea approaches the second free presidential election in its history under difficult circumstances. Unless the government convenes a serious dialogue with the opposition, it risks electoral violence and exacerbating ethnic divisions.

In the midst of the Ebola crisis, Guinea is preparing for the presidential election due in 2015. The exact election date is just one of many points being contested by the government and opposition. The political debate is increasingly held along ethnic lines, rallying the vast majority of the Malinké behind President Alpha Condé’s coalition and the Peul behind former Prime Minister Cellou Dalein Diallo’s alliance. Violent protests around elections in 2012 and 2013, with highly contested results, brought both sides to the negotiating table, but the July 2014 talks about a future electoral framework quickly failed, marking the parties’ deep suspicion and unwillingness to compromise. A highly flawed judiciary adds to the climate of uncertainty and the government is reluctant to listen to calls for a new round of dialogue and international mediation. In its latest briefing, Guinea’s Other Emergency: Organising Elections, the International Crisis Group outlines the steps that should be taken to ensure peaceful elections.

The briefing’s major findings and recommendations are:
  • Guinea’s controversy over electoral preparations is fuelling ethnic divisions, slowing down economic development and impeding the response to Ebola. But with June 2015 being the earliest discussed election date, there is still time to build minimum consensus on electoral arrangements.
  • President Alpha Condé should invite the government and opposition to engage in a new round of talks, in which the two parties should suggest precise, comprehensive and realistic measures.
  • The government should reshuffle the Independent National Electoral Commission and ensure that all commissioners are appointed in equal numbers by the two political coalitions and that decisions are made by consensus.
  • The government should embrace the willingness of international partners such as the European Union, African Union and UN to provide formal and informal support and act as guarantors of a fair electoral process. An international evaluation mission should be requested to assess the electoral arrangements.
  • When choosing a date for the presidential election, both sides should take into account that the long-delayed local elections, originally scheduled for early 2014, should be held a minimum of three months and a maximum of six months before the presidential polls, so as to give time for elected representatives to begin work.
“With a political scene split along ethnic lines, and in the grip of an Ebola epidemic that has weakened its economy, the government has two options”, says Vincent Foucher, West Africa Senior Analyst. “It can either promote dialogue and establish a credible election framework or run the risk of instability and ethnic violence”.

“Electoral regulations and institutions in Guinea are deeply flawed. Even where clear rules exist, they are often not enforced”, says Rinaldo Depagne, West Africa Project Director. “Key institutions, such as a Constitutional Court, are lacking, making a constructive dialogue between the government and opposition all the more urgent”.