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Guinea’s First Democratic Election

Robert Amsterdam blogs on the Huffington Post about the upcoming elections in Guinea later this month – expected to be the very first free and fair contest in the country’s post-independence history.  Many readers will recall that under the regime of Moussa Dadis Camara, Oleg Deripaska’s Rusal was threatened with expropriation, while Rio Tinto and the Chinese also squabbled with the government.  These resource nationalism issues are unlikely to go away, but may receive better, fairer management under the next democratically elected president.

In the past, fraud, vote buying, and outright manipulation marred Guinean elections. This time, however, things are looking quite different, according to a recent statement from Carter Center election observers: “The Carter Center observation mission in Guinea is encouraged by the positive tone of the electoral campaign in Guinea, including candidates’ messages promoting reconciliation and transcending ethnic boundaries, and by the National Electoral Commission’s (CENI) commitment to inclusive elections. (…) There is a palpable sense of excitement and expectation among Guineans, who hope for a meaningful democratic transition and civilian government.” (…)

Out of the 24 candidates currently running for president (not one of them a military officer), one person stands out among observers as the potential new face of West African democracy. Cellou Dalein Diallo, a World Bank economist, former prime minister, and head of one of the leading opposition parties Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea (UFDG), happened to be present during the September 2009 crackdown and suffered significant injuries during the violence. His leadership of the civil society movement and personal sacrifices during the difficult Camara period has conferred upon him a certain mythic status among voters, while his campaign rallies have attracted more than 60,000 boisterous attendees in recent weeks leading up to voting day.