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Ready for elections in Ivory Coast and Guinea?

October 28, 2010

guineaBarring 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?

Comments

Although there is still a long way before they can become safer places, both countries are indeed making progress by going to the polls. Guinea could not continue be ruled by military regimes and Côte d’Ivoire could not go on without a clearly identified leader. Gbagbo was “ill-elected” in 2000 and the country did not have any elections for ten long years. It is better to have something resembling a return to normality than uncertainty and a suspension of aid. It is however likely that the process will be painful at least in the immediate post-election period, as in neither country will any of the main candidates lightly accept defeat. StrategiCo., http://www.strategico.fr, specialises in risk analysis in Africa and rates both countries as “high risk”.

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