CONAKRY, Guinea (AP) — Long-awaited and hotly contested legislative elections in Guinea will be delayed by several days after the opposition threatened to boycott over concerns about the voter list and other issues, a U.N. special envoy said late Saturday.
The announcement about the Sept. 28 poll came after more than 24 hours of negotiations between the ruling party and opposition that were brokered by U.N. special envoy Said Djinnit. "We are convinced that with this agreement nothing more can prevent the holding of free, transparent and inclusive elections on Saturday, Sept. 28, in Guinea and abroad," said the statement.
The vote had been scheduled for Tuesday, but the opposition expressed concerns about whether various problems regarding the voting list and voter stations could be resolved in time. The opposition had alleged irregularities and omissions on electoral lists in its strongholds.
Saturday's announcement marks a compromise as the opposition on Friday had been seeking to postpone the vote by a month. The electoral commission, known as CENI, "is committed to correcting these inconsistencies within a tight deadline," said Cellou Dalein Diallo, Guinea's opposition leader.
"We take them at their word, and we are waiting to see if in fact this takes place," Diallo said. Kiridi Bangoura, the special representative of President Alpha Conde at the meeting, said: "We hope that on Sept. 28, Guineans will turn out en masse to express their voice and that the best candidates win."
In 2010, Guinea held its first democratic election ever after decades of dictatorship and strongman rule. The vote, though, unleashed tensions between the country's two largest ethnic groups — the Peul, whose candidate lost, and the Malinke, whose candidate is now president.
Guinea's last legislative vote took place more than a decade ago, and new polls were first slated to be held in 2007. However, repeated delays have left the country without a functioning legislature and issues surrounding the vote have fueled violent protests.
The country is home to the world's largest reserves of bauxite, the raw ingredient used to make aluminum, yet remains one of the poorest nations in the world after decades of misrule.