Guineans Approve Law That May Allow President to Seek Third Term

(Bloomberg) --

Guinea’s electoral commission announced voters overwhelmingly approved a new constitution that opposition parties say will allow President Alpha Conde to seek a third term.

The legislation was backed by 92% of voters in a March 22 referendum, Amadou Salif Kebe, head of the West African country’s electoral body, said Friday in a broadcast on Radio Guinee.

The new constitution changes the presidential term limit from five to six years, renewable once. It also states the president chooses the parliamentary speaker. Guinea is the biggest exporter of bauxite to China and has massive iron deposits.

Most opposition parties rejected the proposed constitution even before it was made official and spurned the vote that was marred by violence. The West African regional economic bloc called for dialogue and urged all political parties to avoid violence.

At least two people were killed in election-related clashes and staff at one polling station was kidnapped, according to the security ministry. The electoral body said while violent incidents partly prevented people from voting in some areas, it didn’t affect the result. The government has since implemented a state of emergency because contain the coronavirus outbreak.

“The election outcome is no surprise, but the margin of victory is,” said Eric Humphery-Smith, Senior Africa Analyst at Verisk Maplecroft. “The result is a victory for Conde, allowing him to stand for that prized third term. He is likely to have entrenched himself even further politically.”

The “non-inclusive nature of the electoral roll” and the role played by security forces on election day failed to enable “the holding of credible elections,” France’s foreign ministry said in a statement on its website.

Conde has been in office since 2010 and was due to step down this year. While the 82-year-old has refused to say whether he will run again, he has suggested the president in Guinea should be allowed a third term. Conde’s ruling party say a new constitution that resets the clock allows the incumbent to stand again.

The referendum was postponed from March 1 after international observers questioned whether it would be credible. The African Union withdrew its election observer mission, citing concerns about the voters roll.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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