Thursday October 06, 2022

EU voices concerns over Guinea referendum

February 09, 2020

DAKAR: The European Union has joined the United States in voicing concerns about a constitutional referendum in Guinea, which the opposition calls a ploy by President Alpha Conde to stay in power.

The bloc on Friday urged an "inclusive dialogue" in the West African state to ensure the fairness of the poll, which is planned for the same day as parliamentary elections on March 1. "Unity and peace in Guinea must prevail over partisan interests, the EU said.

Since mid-October, hundreds of thousands of people have demonstrated against changing the constitution in the former French colony, in protests that have sometimes turned violent. At least 28 civilians and one gendarme have been killed in the unrest to date. A draft constitution still limits the number of presidential terms to two.

But critics argue that the new constitution would reset the term counter to zero and allow Conde to run a third time. The president has neither confirmed nor denied those claims. "The decision to couple the parliamentary elections of 1 March 2020 with a constitutional referendum deeply divide(s) the country," the EU said. United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo voiced similar concerns on Friday, tweeting that he was "concerned" by plans to couple the two elections. "We question whether the process will be free, fair and transparent and accurately reflect the will of all eligible voters," Pompeo said in a statement.

"We urge all parties to engage in non-violent civil dialogue," he said. Guinea´s main opposition parties have vowed to boycott both the parliamentary election and the referendum. Conde, 81, was a long-time opposition figure who became Guinea´s first-ever elected president in 2010 on promises to fight corruption. He was re-elected in 2015. He has since been accused of sliding toward authoritarianism, however.