Guinea’s opposition on Saturday called for the cancellation of a referendum on President Alpha Conde’s reforms that have sparked months of protests over fears they will allow him to stay in power.
Conde on Friday announced the referendum planned for Sunday would be postponed — possibly for two weeks — following growing domestic and international criticism over the ballot.
The referendum will decide on constitutional reforms that the opposition fears will allow Conde to bypass a two-term presidential limit and run again in the West African country.
“We congratulate the people of Guinea who valiantly fought against this constitutional coup. But we are not satisfied with this postponement,” Ibrahima Diallo, part of the FNDC alliance opposing the reforms, told AFP.
“We will continue the fight until the complete withdrawal… The fight continues until Alpha Conde leaves power under the current Constitution.”
Conde, 81, was elected in 2010 and then re-elected for a final five-year term in 2015.
Speaking on national television, the president said on Friday it was “due to our national and regional responsibilities that we have accepted a slight postponement of the date of the elections”.
Conde’s announcement followed criticism of the electoral process from the African Union, European Union and The International Organisation of La Francophonie (OIF), which gathers French-speaking states.
While Conde did not publicly announce a date for the new vote, a letter from the leader to the West African bloc ECOWAS, seen by AFP, said the new poll should take place within two weeks.
Since October, the demonstrations over the reforms — led by Front National for the Defence of the Constitution or FNDC — have sometimes turned violent, with at least 30 protesters and one gendarme killed to date.
Opposition leaders promised to keep up the protests.
“Alpha Conde’s speech is more like a declaration of war against the opposition and the FNDC than an offer of peace and dialogue”, Guinean opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo said on Twitter.
“No to the constitutional coup.”
One Western diplomat in the capital Conakry expressed scepticism about the vote in two weeks being fairer. “This changes nothing,” he said.
“The postponement is purely for technical reasons. People ransacked materials in polling stations. It has nothing to do with the electoral roll,” said Sekou Conde of the ruling party.
The OIF said this week that it had problems with around 2.5 million of the 7.7 million names on the electoral roll, for example, pointing to duplicate registrations and people who had died. AFP