African business, politics and lifestyle
Ready for elections in Ivory Coast and Guinea?
Barring last-minute upsets, Ivory Coast will go to the polls on Sunday, marking the end of a five-year limbo in which the incumbent president has ruled without any real mandate and the country stagnated without a sense of identity or direction.
The following weekend, neighbouring Guinea may finally hold the serially delayed second-round of its presidential election, hoped to end nearly two years of military rule whose defining moment was a massacre of pro-democracy marchers by the security forces in a sports stadium.
It can only be a good thing if the elections allow Ivory Coast and Guinea to draw a line under their past and move on. But is either country actually ready for them?
In Guinea any semblance of voting on a candidate’s policy proposals or merits has been jettisoned after June’s first round which, to no great surprise, set the stage for a run-off between Cellou Dallein Diallo and Alpha Conde — representatives of the large Peul and Malinke communities respectively.
Instead of hearing a meaningful political debate before the decisive second round, Guinean voters have watched a struggle for control of the national election commission, with both sides afraid of it falling into the hands of the rival ethnic group.
The stand-off was only solved by appointing a Malian as the temporary president of the body.
Things are only marginally better in Ivory Coast. One candidate, ex-premier and former IMF deputy chief Alassane Ouattara, declared this week there is “no way” that President Laurent Gbagbo could win the election, effectively pre-empting the choice of the Ivorian voter.
In both Guinea and Ivory Coast, there are real concerns that politicians and their supporters are simply not ready to accept the notion of electoral defeat and so will violently contest any result that goes against them.
It is hard to think of a better real alternative for either country than going to the polls in the coming days. But will this attempt at democracy make them safer places?