Guinea’s opposition may agree to election

CONAKRY, Guinea (AP) — After weeks of violent clashes, Guinea’s ruling party and opposition succeeded in drafting a framework which might allow the country to move forward with much-delayed legislative elections, according to the international mediator brought in to help bridge the chasm between the two sides.

Said Djinnit, the special representative of the United Nations Secretary-General, explained on Sunday that the opposition has agreed to rescind their boycott and will take part in the poll so long as 10 conditions are met. In return, the ruling party has agreed to delay the June date for the ballot. They have also agreed to allow Guineans living overseas to vote, a concession to the opposition since most expatriates have historically voted in favor of the opposition.

“The two sides were able to make significant advances,” Djinnit said on Sunday. “Before the dialogue started, consultations were carried out which involved everyone in order to create an unconditional dialogue, without any taboos,” he said.

Among the 10 conditions that the opposition has asked for is that the families of those who died in recent protests be compensated, and that an investigation is carried out into their deaths. Dozens of people, nearly all of them opposition supporters, have died in the violent demonstrations which have engulfed Guinea’s seaside capital in recent months over the vote.

Other conditions include that the country’s territorial administration remain neutral during the vote and that the government re-opens the electoral list for possible revisions. They are also asking that two independent experts be allowed to review the electoral list.

Guinea has spent nearly all of its 55 years since independence under strongman rule. Following the near-assassination of its last military leader in 2009, the country finally transitioned to civilian rule, holding its first democratic election ever in the fall of 2010. While deemed mostly transparent, the election tore the country apart along ethnic lines, after the vote came down to a Peul and a Malinke candidate, the nation’s two largest ethnic groups, each accounting for between 30 and 40 percent of the population, according to experts.

Malinke politician Alpha Conde won the vote, and is accused of stacking the government with his ethnic kin.

The legislative election was due to be held soon after the 2010 presidential ballot, but it has been held-up ever since. The opposition is accusing Conde’s party of trying to stack the electoral roll with citizens from areas of the country known to Malinke strongholds, while at the same time, instituting rules that would reduce votes from regions known to be predominantly Peul.

During the 2010 vote, expatriates voted overwhelmingly in favor of the Peul candidate and the opposition saw it as a political sleight-of-hand when the ruling party recently ruled that Guineans overseas would not be allowed to take part in the legislative vote. It’s one of several issues that the two sides were able to agree on following the weekend-long mediation session.

Saliou Bela Diallo, a spokesman for the coalition allied with the ruling party, said that “(we) have accepted in principle that Guineans living overseas will be allowed to vote. We accepted this with the aim of restoring peace and in a spirit of compromise,” he said.

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Associated Press writer Rukmini Callimachi contributed to this report from Dakar, Senegal.

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Rukmini Callimachi can be reached at www.twitter.com/rcallimachi

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