Despite failing health, President Lansana Conte's grip on power seems as strong as ever following his victory in the Guinea's elections. But, while Conte provides political stability, the economy has been stagnating. Neil Ford reports.
Guinea's political opposition largely boycotted December's polls in protest at a constitutional change that permitted the incumbent, President Lansana Conte, to stand for a third term.
Conte took 95.63% of the vote, with his only opponent Mamadou Bhoye Barry, of the tiny Union for National Progress (UPN) party, securing the remaining 4.37%. Barry's decision to stand may be explained by the fact that his UPN supports Conte in parliament: an election without any opposition would have looked odd. Interior Minister Moussa Solano said that turnout had been around 83%, although press reports indicated that it had been much lower. Solano said: "The elections went smoothly without any incidents reported. Neither here in the capital nor anywhere in the provinces."
An alliance of opposition parties, called the Republican Front for Democratic Change (FRAD), encompassing the Union pour le Progres et le Renouveau (UPR), Rassemblement du People de Guinee (RPG) and Union Nationale pour le Progres en Guinee (UNPG), had appealed for voters to boycott the election.
FRAD chairman Mamadou Ba said: "Don't even walk around in the streets so that you give the impression this town is alive." Previous Guinean legislative elections have been cancelled on the grounds of a lack of money to pay for them.
The opposition claims that the electoral commission is now under the control of the government. Former Prime Minister Sidya Toure described the election as a farce while opposition leader Siradiou Diallo said: "The level of fraud they are cooking up for us is so massive, we know we can have nothing to do with this election." Some political opponents also claim that Conte's election campaign was partly funded by state revenues. The European Union refused to finance the elections because of fears of major election irregularities and even turned down an invitation to send observers, setting the seal on the international view of the poll.
Before the election, Conte said: "I warn all opponents who might be tempted to export politics into the military garrisons during the election campaign: they will have to deal with me."
He was true to his word as up to a hundred soldiers were arrested during the run-up to...