Guinea’s warring political factions agreed to reschedule next year’s local elections in a bid to end a democratic crisis which has sparked deadly protests across the country. Justice Minister Cheick Sacko announced the compromise after chairing two days of talks in the capital Conakry with senior figures from the ruling party and opposition coalition.
“It was not easy but the different parties came together,” he told a news conference, adding that the country’s independent election commission would find a new date for the polls. Guinea’s opposition is convinced that the local authorities, whose mandate formally expired in 2010, are completely under President Alpha Conde’s control.
Local elections were planned for 2014 but the timetable had to be ripped up when Guinea was hit by the Ebola epidemic. Opposition parties hoped the regional voting could still go ahead before October’s presidential elections, and were dismayed when the local polls were rescheduled for 2016. The parties accuse Conde of using the Ebola crisis as an excuse to keep his cronies in power locally, to help him rig the October vote.
The president denies the claims, arguing that local officials will not be involved in the presidential polls. Conde asked his government in May to open talks with opposition leaders following weeks of clashes between anti-government activists and security forces.
The violence left several people dead and dozens wounded in the west African nation’s capital Conakry and several provincial towns. “Finally, we have consensus in a form of wording that has been accepted by all, enshrining the effective cancellation of the electoral timetable… regarding the local elections,” said opposition spokesman Aboubacar Sylla. Amadou Damaro Camara, vicepresident of the National Assembly and head of the majority grouping’s delegation to the talks, said the presidential election would still go ahead on October 11.