The challenges of democracy: Guinea’s parliamentary elections

11 October 2013

On 28 September 2013 Guinea held for the first time elections for a new parliament in democracy. Having endured more than 50 years of autocratic rulers since achieving independence in 1958, the country swore in its first democratically elected President, Alpha Condé, in December 2010.

There was, unsurprisingly, a high level of expectation from such a significant electoral process. These elections were originally foreseen to take place six months after the new democratic government took office. However, this timeframe proved to be too short to secure the necessary agreements, including all the political forces, for the carrying out of these elections, which were eventually reached earlier this year.

The voting organised by the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), which included representatives of all the major parties in the country, was, despite reports of some technical or organisational difficulties, peaceful, open, and drew wide citizen participation, accomplishing a crucial step forward in this process.

In a country of approximately 11.5 million people, still without adequate infrastructure, communications systems and proper roads, and in an election where citizens had a choice of close to 2000 candidates for 114 parliamentary seats with 36 lists of candidates registered, the logistical challenges of Guinea’s parliamentary elections have no doubt been immense.

Until now, the Republic of Guinea has not had the chance to build on the experience of a democratic parliamentary tradition, something which had been denied to the nation’s citizens by successive authoritarian regimes. This has been reflected both in the difficult and drawn-out negotiations to prepare the elections and in the atmosphere of mistrust among political actors as the country awaits the results.

Clearly, any institutional democratic political framework must be built through experience. The time lapse in the announcement of the election results, for instance, demonstrates that the ten-day period within which the Supreme Court must sanction the results, has also proven too short.

These issues, and other alleged problems and shortcomings that have since been voiced, should not be used as a pretext to disqualify the elections. Today in Guinea, like in any other democracy in the world, the proper legal channels exist to hear any allegation in an electoral process, to check that the correct procedures have been followed, and that any complaint held, according to the law in Guinea, should be submitted to the Supreme Court, which is the only legal body to sanction the final result.

Democracy needs to be nurtured daily and it is only by recognising and following the rules and norms of democracy and the law that the necessary legitimacy of the new democratic institutions of the country can be established.

All individuals, groups and political parties have an obligation to contribute to the upholding of this path in this crucial moment for Guinea. Throughout the world we can see that it is only with real and true democratic governance that countries can manage to move forward. This young democracy must develop and learn from its own experiences to secure not only the newly gained freedoms and rights of all the Guinean citizens, but the country’s stability, economic development and the wellbeing of its people.

That these elections have taken place considering the daunting myriad of political and logistical challenges faced by a fledgling democracy in a developing country, is thanks to the efforts of its citizens, the different political actors in Guinea, and of President Alpha Condé, whose political engagement, as his life has shown, having suffered imprisonment, exile and persecution, has only ever been associated with the permanent search for democratic freedoms and rights in his country.

Now, a new concerted effort needs to be made by the CENI and all other relevant officials to complete the process to arrive at final public results, and to include in its report to the Supreme Court, those cases which require its attention or further clarification.

The Socialist International will continue to remain committed and engaged in support of this new democratic Guinea.