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An in-depth report by our senior reporters and team of correspondents from around the world. Every Saturday at 8.40 pm Paris time.

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Latest update : 2010-07-14

Guinea: the new dawn

After 52 years of dictatorship, voters in Guinea sincerely believe they have an opportunity to change their country through peaceful elections.

7 am, the sun rises over Conakry. Already queues have formed outside polling stations. Voters waiting in line, clutching their registration card, eager to cast their ballot in what could be the country’s first free and faire election since independence from France in 1958.

Guineans have been waiting for this moment for decades and at last, it seems within grasp. The election is taking place on schedule and the country’s strongman, General Sékouba Konaté, has promised to hand over power to whoever wins.

“We’re voting without any arguments, without fighting, without racism…I’m happy to see my people vote like this, without any problems!” says an old man minutes after casting his ballot. “In previous elections, my father would vote for the whole family, but this time around, I came out to vote for my candidate…no obligation, it’s a free election and it’s fair!” explains a young woman who has just voted for the first time.

24 candidates ran in the election and campaigned throughout the country. Many are hardly known, but there are several political heavyweights in Guinea such as Cellou Dalein Diallo, Sidya Touré or Lansana Kouyaté, all former Prime Ministers during Lansana Conté’s corrupt rule. Also in the running, Alpha Condé, who has opposed every regime since independence.

Over time, Guineans have become accustomed to a local specialty: massive voter fraud. Alpha Camara, for instance, remembers how it was done. He worked in polling stations during the last two presidential elections. Like many, he did what he was told and when the time came to count the results, he stuffed the ballot box: “We had to stuff the ballot box! Citizens had come out to vote, so when we saw there weren’t enough votes for the president, we would stuff the envelopes…” he explained to France 24.

This time however, the election is largely considered to have been free and fair. The second round will pit Cellou Dalein Diallo against Alpha Condé. Provided the country’s nascent democracy follows its course, one of them will soon be the next President of Guinea. The people’s choice. At last.
 

By Cyril VANIER , Alexandra RENARD

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