Guinea opposition strikes deal with president ahead of polls

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 18, 2015 12:08 PM

CONAKRY (Reuters) - Guinea's political opposition said on Tuesday it had reached a compromise with President Alpha Conde to name new mayors and redistribute local government posts as part of talks to pave the way for peaceful elections in October.

The opposition has for months accused the government of breaching a deal to hold local polls before the presidential vote, a factor they say gives Conde an advantage since municipal authorities are packed with his supporters.

The government has said that the elections calendar cannot be changed and the presidential poll must go ahead as scheduled on Oct. 11. But after meeting with Conde on Monday, Sidya Toure, a former prime minister who is now part of the opposition, said the president had accepted a change to the composition of the local administrations ahead of the vote.

"We made a proposition for 38 communal mayors and 90 districts. We were aiming to have this proposition accepted and that is what happened," he said.

Guinea is composed of a total of 343 districts. Toure said the proposed redistribution of local posts was proportional to the opposition's representation in parliament.

Government spokesman Damantang Albert Camara said he was aware of the proposal but he was traveling and not able to confirm whether a compromise had been struck with the opposition.

Guinea, the world's leading bauxite producer, has not held local elections since 2002.

Conde was elected in 2010 in elections that restored civilian rule after the army seized control upon the death of longtime leader Lansana Conte. He has replaced many local officials with so-called special delegates pending local polls.

Demonstrations in April and May against the timing of elections later this year led to at least six deaths, according to Amnesty International.

More than 50 people died in riots ahead of Guinea's legislative elections in 2013. Observers have voiced concerns that the presidential polls may also be marred by violence.

The opposition is also demanding the recomposition of the elections commission, claiming it is biased in Conde's favor.

(Reporting by Saliou Samb; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Mark Heinrich)