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The EU And Guinea’s Presidential Election: Too Little, Too Late?

Shades of Conde (shadesofconde.org/) campaign has been launched, in part, to bring attention to the alarming erosion of democracy in Guinea.

IMANI & IPPA | Shades of Conde

It is with that said that we are glad to see a European Union (EU) delegation has been in Guinea since 9 June meeting with various government officials with an eye to the deployment of observers for the country’s presidential election, scheduled for October 11.

 While it has not yet officially decided whether or not the EU will actually send poll watchers, the real question is what good they would be able to do months from now if the fix is already underway?

The evidence of skulduggery has not been lost on astute observers, both in Africa and internationally.

The Director of the Africa Centre at the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C., Dr. Peter Pham recently explained why the timing of local elections has become such a critical issue: “The political opposition realizes that it is being railroaded by the government, which controls the so-called Independent National Electoral Commission. That body has rejiggered the electoral calendar to give an insurmountable advantage to the incumbent president… The opposition is demanding, quite reasonably, that local elections that Conde has postponed on one pretext or another for more than four years be held before the presidential poll, in accordance with Guinea’s laws as well as the repeated promises of the president himself. Why is this so important? First, there is no basis in the Guinean constitution for the repeated postponements of these elections and, as a result of them, as both opposition politicians and civil society leaders have pointed out, none of those occupying local government offices—mayors, local council members, ward chiefs, etc.—has a legal mandate. Second, as many observers have noted, the criteria under which these officials have been retained without the consent of their constituents has been their allegiance to the president. Third, these same unelected local officials, dependent as they are upon the incumbent for their livelihood, will be the very people who, at the grassroots level, will not only be determining who can register to vote ahead of the polls and who casts ballots on election day, but will themselves be counting ballots and tabulating results.”

The European External Action Service proclaims that “Election observation is a vital EU activity aiming to promote democracy, human rights and the rule of law worldwide… Election observation gives the opportunity to assess an electoral process according to international standard.” International standards require that the entire electoral process be free, fair and transparent. However, that process does not just include the casting of ballots and their tabulation: it begins months before, with the establishment of the mechanisms for the voting and the designation of those who will administer the poll. This is precisely where the Condé regime is busy manipulating the situation to eventually produce its desired outcome of four more years to cement in place Guinea’s latest dictatorship.

Instead of contemplating whether or not to send observers in a few months’ time when they may have little to do but watch a charade, the EU should be using its considerable leverage – last year, France and EU institutions as a whole accounted for nearly half of the foreign assistance given to impoverished Guinea – to pressure Alpha Condé and his government to honour their commitments to hold local government elections ahead of the presidential vote and to put into place a proper structure for the latter vote. Without these two conditions being met now, any EU election observation mission in October will be too little, too late, amounting to little more than an expensive publicly-funded safari excursion for a group of privileged officials from Brussels.


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