Two dozen candidates – and no soldiers – in Guinea's presidential poll
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Guinea goes to the polls on Sunday in a presidential election that could give the West African state its best chance at emerging from a history of authoritarian rule followed by the leadership of an unstable military junta.
In the first free and transparent presidential elections since Guinea achieved independence from France in 1958, 24 candidates are running – and in a first for the West African state, not one of them is a military figure. FRANCE 24 looks at the main contenders.
ALPHA CONDE, 72 – the historic opposition figure
As leader of the Rassemblement du Peuple de Guinée (RPG), Conde has opposed all three recent and generally unpopular leaders – Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, Lansana Conte and Sekou Toure. He was poised to win a presidential election against Conte (1984-2008) in 1993 before the government annulled a slew of votes.
Conde was sentenced to death in absentia under Toure's administration (1958-1984) and was imprisoned by Conte's government from 1998 to 2003, accused of plotting a coup. Conde supported Camara's coup in 2008 after Conte's death, but later became a political opponent when signs emerged Camara wanted to stay in power.
Conde is widely considered Guinea's most respected opposition figure and an election favourite. Some observers wonder if he has what it takes to be president after a long political career outside government. Conde is of the Malinke ethnicity, which makes up 35 percent of the population.
CELLOU DALEIN DIALLO, 58 – the technocrat
The leader of the Union des Forces Democratiques de Guinée (UFDG) has prior experience in power that could both help and hurt him. He served in Conte's government as a minister and as prime minister, enabling him to see the issues and opportunities facing the nation. But critics say his ties to Conte are worrisome and have accused him of accumulating his wealth through corruption – a charge he denies. Diallo was sacked by Conte in 2006 for "gross negligence".
Diallo curried favour among Guineans after Camara's junta took power in 2008 by taking a critical stance early on. He was beaten by security forces in September 2009 during a crackdown on anti-junta demonstrators that killed more than 150 people.
Diallo enjoys significant support from the business community, but has said he will review foreign mining deals signed by the transitional government if he wins the election. The UFDG's challenge will be to expand beyond its traditional support base, particularly in the Forestiere region, which is thick with Camara backers. Diallo is of the Peul ethnicity, which makes up about 40 percent of the population.
SIDYA TOURE, 65
Sidya Toure is the former chief of staff for former Ivorian prime minister Alassane Ouattara and took over as Guinea's prime minister in 1996 during Conte's rule after a mutiny by the armed forces. He was sacked by Conte in 1999.
Supporters say Toure has the best chance of stabilising Guinea's economy and opening the door to international development aid. He has said his priority is to create a sense of unity in a country known for its stubborn ethnic divisions. Toure has never run for office. Observers believe that if he does not win he could play an important kingmaker role in the second round.
LANSANA KOUYATE, 60 – the consensus man
Kouyate arrived on the Guinean political scene in 2007 when then-president Lansana Conte was faced with violent protests that left hundreds dead in the streets of the capital, Conakry. Conte made Kouyate prime minister “of consensus” under pressure from the protesters. He had never held a position in government or the opposition before.
The career diplomat has been ambassador to a number of countries before joining the UN and then moving on to head up the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
FRANCOIS FALL, 61 – the diplomat
Another former prime minister under Conte, Fall has confirmed he will be a candidate in the poll. Previous posts include Guinea's representative at the United Nations and ambassador to the Central African Republic.
Fall returned to Guinea after Conte’s death in December 2008. When Camara took power in a military coup, Fall became a leading spokesman for opposition groups before setting up his own political party, the United Front for Democracy and Change (FUDEC).
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