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March 2025 (due)
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October 18, 2020
March 22, 2020
February 4, 2018
Amid violence, Guinea held a presidential election on October 18, 2020. Incumbent Alpha Condé ran for a controversial third term, and for the third time, faced off against opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo. Both candidates claim they won, but election officials have declared Condé the winner. However, Diallo is challenging the results, alleging fraud and prompting street protests leading to at least 10 deaths. More violence is likely.
This presidential election and its aftermath are taking place in the context of increased polarization and political violence.
Elections in Guinea routinely see significant delays, ethnic tensions, and violence. The country has a history of coups. Historically, the security forces have used excessive force to quell protests. This presidential election is coming on the heels of long-delayed legislative elections that took place on March 22, 2020.
President Alpha Condé, a former opposition leader who came to power in 2010 following a transition from military to civilian rule, seeks a third term following his victory in a constitutional referendum that took place at the same time as the legislative elections. The result opened the door for Condé to run again (which Russia encouraged because Russian companies have mining interests in Guinea), the logic being that a new constitution means a new republic, which means a reset on term limits. The new constitution is controversial – opposition protests beginning in October 2019 over the proposed change left at least 31 people dead, and protests on voting day left at least 10 people dead.
Guinea’s two biggest political parties are the Condé’s Rally of the Guinean People (RPG) and the main opposition Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea (UFDG), led by Cellou Dalein Diallo. Diallo narrowly lost the presidency to Condé in 2010, considered to be Guinea’s first credible election. While there were 11 candidates for president this year, the election was primarily a contest between Condé and Diallo.
The country has a total of 130 registered political parties, many of which are based on ethnicity (Guinea has over 20 ethnic groups) and personality rather than ideology. RPG and UFDG are bitter rivals . While the parties both claim to be multiethnic, Condé’s RPG gets most of its support from Malinke people, and the UFDG mostly gets support from Fulani people.
Condé has described the presidential election as a “war,” and has given speeches in the Malinke language, which some see as stoking ethnic tensions as it has been the custom to give national addresses in French. Meanwhile, the opposition has accused Condé of being a dictator.
Condé’s RPG appears to be on a roll, with dual victories in March 2020. In the legislative elections, which the opposition boycotted, RPG won 79 of the 114 seats in the National Assembly. Furthermore, Condé won a referendum that would allow him to seek a third term.
However, his victories could prove pyrrhic. As Kabinet Fofana and Joschka Philipps note: “In Guinea, the referendum has resuscitated an amalgam of political, inter-ethnic and religious conflicts. These can be contained, but initially appear worryingly similar to the communitarian violence that shook the region in 2013.” Political violence and protests, followed by crackdowns by the security services, have been on the rise.
Although Guinea is one of the world’s poorest countries, it has mineral wealth. It is one of the world’s biggest producers of bauxite (a key ingredient in aluminum). Much of the bauxite is exported to China, which loaned Guinea $20 billion in exchange for bauxite concessions. Guinea also has iron, gold, diamonds, and oil.
During the Cold War, Guinea initially aligned with the Soviet Union following independence from France, but became site of geopolitical competition and vacillated between Moscow and the west. As Russia beefs up its political and military involvement in Africa, it has its eye on Guinea, supporting Condé’s bid to change the constitution. In that vein, in several African countries, Russia has sent mercenaries along with “political technologists” to help incumbents rig elections in exchange for mining concessions.
Voice of America (October 25, 2020): Guinea’s Opposition Challenging President’s Election Victory
Boubacar Diallo (October 24, 2020): Guinean president wins a 3rd term, electoral commission says
Babacar Dione, AP (September 24, 2020): Guinea’s opposition urges West African leaders to step in
Mouctar Bah, AFP (September 24, 2020): Guinea president appeals to base, calling election a ‘war’
Jack Cable and Zoe Huczok, Stanford Cyber Policy Center (September 21, 2020): Who Are the President of Guinea’s Facebook Trolls? The Blurry Line Between Modern Campaigning and Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior
Reuters (September 6, 2020): Veteran Guinea opposition leader to challenge President Conde in October election
Honoré Banda, The Africa Report (September 1, 2020): Guinea: Alpha Condé officially running for a third presidential term
Kabinet Fofana and Joschka Philipps, African Arguments (April 16, 2020): Guinea’s elections had a clear winner. But its contest for power isn’t over.
François Soudan, The Africa Report (February 21, 2020): Alpha Condé vs. the opposition: Unmasking the power struggle
The Economist (October 21, 2019): The Kremlin is encouraging Guinea’s president to ditch the constitution. The Guinean people aren’t thrilled.
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