Mid-February, two days of nationwide opposition strikes and demonstrations took place aiming at improved transparency of the electoral process in the run-up to legislative elections set for May 2013. Two years after President Alpha Condé’s win in Guinea’s first competitive elections, the country still remains without a national assembly as legislative elections have been repeatedly delayed. After last summer’s opposition protests, an important step was made by the establishment of the national electoral commission (CENI), yet the dialogue broke down again in December. The opposition parties still see their main concerns over the electoral system unaddressed: technical weaknesses and lacking transparency inside the CENI - translating the opposition’s conviction of Condé’s fraudulent victory and their fear of another manipulated poll – together with deficient voting rights of Guineans abroad, arising against a backdrop of ethnic favouritism across political lines. An opposition boycott combined with ethnic frictions between security forces and the population could culminate into significant violence and international sanctions. Another postponement of the legislative elections therefore seems very likely. With the opposition clinging on to their demand for talks over outstanding grievances, a serious dialogue appears vital for future democratic progress and to avoid the outbreak of ethnic violence.

Impact on country risk

Guinea’s economy, holding the world’s biggest bauxite reserves, collapsed during the long-term rule of Lansana Conté (1984-2008) followed by the military junta (2008-10) and currently depends on international investments to develop its infrastructure and promising natural resources. Whenever the trial of strength between President Conde’s ruling RPG party (Rally of the Guinean People) and the bulk of opposition parties turns into escalating violence, donors might increase pressure and international sanctions could send the economy into a tailspin. Investors’ appetite would further dampen, aggravating the recent downward trend due to global economic conditions, strikes and the prolonged uncertainty regarding contract revision under the New Mining Code. The latter includes a provision enabling the government to procure up to 35% of any concession.

Analyst: Louise Van Cauwenbergh, l.vancauwenbergh@credendogroup.com