Q+A – After Guinea vote, the hardest is yet to come
* Real test comes when results emerge
* Government formation could take weeks
* Watch for front-runners to form alliances with rivals
By Saliou Samb and Mark John
CONAKRY/DAKAR, June 28 (Reuters) – Guinea held on Sunday its first free election since 1958 independence from France, a vote which international observers said went smoothly aside from some organisational shortcomings.
But despite a sense of euphoria in the West African state that it could soon see a democratic government after decades of misrule by authoritarian leaders, the hardest is yet to come.
Here is a guide for the factors to watch in coming days and weeks as Guinea’s future unfurls.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
First results are not expected until Wednesday. With a total 24 candidates in Sunday’s first round, the broad expectation is that no one candidate will achieve above 50 percent of the vote, making a run-off between the two front-runners likely.
At the moment, the second round is scheduled for July 18, but that could change depending on what happens when the first round results are made known.
Regional and Western observers are studying the conduct of the election and are due to make detailed pronouncements on how it went as early as Monday.
The poll has already been giving a preliminary thumbs-up by both the United States and the European Union. The EU is looking into evidence that some voter lists in north Guinea were incomplete, but stresses for now that it has seen nothing that undermines the credibility of the vote.
WHAT IS THE SCOPE FOR TROUBLE?
Guinea’s real test comes when the results are announced. Whether there is a clear winner or not, all eyes will be on whether losing parties accept the outcome or contest it — either by pointing to some of the poll shortcomings or by a direct accusation of fraud.
If they call their supporters onto the streets, any unrest could rapidly take on an ethnic dimension — Alpha Conde’s backing has a strong Malinke base, Cellou Dalein Diallo’s supporters are predominantly Peul, while Sidya Toure comes from the small Diakhanke group. There are also the various “forestier” tribes which come from the southeast home region of ex-junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara.
Around 16,000 security force personnel have been mobilised to stem any violence and army chief Colonel Nouhou Thiam has promised to come down hard on any troublemakers. If there is unrest and the army quells it in the name of democracy, that in itself will mark a huge step forward in a country which has long suffered at the hands of an undisciplined and self-serving army. If it does not, all bets are off and Guinea — and the wider region — is plunged back into uncertainty.
HOW DOES GUINEA GET A GOVERNMENT?
Under the Guinean constitution, a first-round winner would in theory free hand to name the government of his choice. In reality, the incoming president may want to broaden the power base of his administration by bringing in one or two former rivals into top positions.
In the event of a July 18 run-off, the alliance-building will become a public affair as the two front-runners seek to widen their appeal beyond their immediate ethnic groups. Say for example that Conde and Diallo are left to battle it out next month: either could seek to add support to his ticket by loudly promising the prime minister job to a credible secondary candidate such as Francois Fall, a former premier under late President Lansana Conte.
After the final election results are ratified by the Supreme Court, the process of government formation could in itself take up to four weeks — meaning it could still be a couple of months before the shape of Guinea’s new government is known.