When Guinea’s Supreme Court announced the final results of the legislative elections on November 15, 2013, Guineans finally, and quite understandably, breathed a massive sigh of relief.
This long-awaited sense of reprieve came after elections took place on September 28th, following numerous postponements, nearly three years of political and social tension, the deaths of dozens of innocent people, and property damage totaling millions of US dollars.
While many feel the election results signaled an end to the rollercoaster of events that characterized Guinean politics for the last few years, this is certainly not the time for Guineans to put up their feet and relax.
Reliving the anguish and turmoil of past years is not an option for Guineans. With the next presidential elections taking place in less than two years, two key issues must be resolved now – rather than later – for there to be peaceful and credible elections in 2015. These are the drawing up of a voter register and reforming the legal and institutional framework for elections.
Stakeholders must determine whether a new biometric voter register should be drawn up before the 2015 presidential polls, as Article 9 of the July 2013 “Agreement on the Preparation and Organization of Legislative Elections” seems to suggest. In the best-case scenario, the registration process will take at least twelve months to complete, from selection of a technical operator to settling any legal disputes over the register.
Political obstacles will inevitably arise during this process, which only reaffirms why immediate planning is imperative.
If nothing else, the September 2013 legislative elections revealed shortcomings in the legal and institutional framework of Guinea’s electoral system, such as a weak Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and gaps in the Electoral Code and Constitution. Thus all stakeholders in the electoral process, namely politicians, parliamentarians and government officials should first – and rapidly – reach a consensus on the nature and depth of necessary electoral reforms. In other words, they must ascertain what can be done, what should be done and what must be done given the available time, the political environment and the practicality of implementation.
For instance, INEC’s current partisan structure instils confidence neither in politicians nor in citizens. Stakeholders need to decide whether there should be a new type of INEC, perhaps one that is purely technical, or an external mechanism with organic functions and a composition that would reassure political actors. Alternatively, perhaps the current INEC simply needs to be internally reorganized.