As Guinea prepares for legislative elections at the end of this year — only the second competitive polls ever held in the country — political parties are working hard to expand voter registration, select candidates more democratically, and improve outreach to rural party members and constituents. These principles were among the recommendations put forward by more than 40 Guinean political parties following a month of consultations about their experiences from the country’s first campaign last year.
After more than 50 years of authoritarian rule, Guinea held its first elections in the second half of 2010. The polls marked the first time political parties had ever been able to campaign openly and in a competitive environment, but the campaigning period was marred by some violence. Further adding to the political tension, administrative issues caused runoff elections to be pushed back four months later than anticipated according to constitutional law.
Since the end of that campaign, NDI has been working with political parties to compile their lessons learned throughout the historic presidential election process of 2010. In the capital of Conakry and across Guinea’s seven administrative capitals, the Institute discussed with party leadership and regional representatives what they hope to do differently in the upcoming campaign, searching for principles that all parties could agree to that would create more efficiently-run elections and more peaceful polls in Guinea’s upcoming legislative elections.
For example, parties reported that communication between the capital and the provinces was a challenge. Campaign materials, information about a party’s message or platform, or professional trainers and organizers didn’t always make it into more rural areas of the country. Often, information about the electoral legal framework, including constitutional provisions and campaign finance laws, was not sufficiently communicated to the party wings outside the capital.
Party pollwatching also suffered from this disconnect. In some instances, parties had a hard time finding trainers and funding to field poll watchers in rural areas, resulting in some polling stations not being monitored, and some parties not having a presence at polling sites in certain parts of the country.
The NDI-led campaign evaluation process culminated March 31- April 2, when 40 parties met to discuss their findings and recommendations. For the legislative elections, parties agreed to:
- Develop better voter registration and get out the vote efforts;
- Select candidates in a more democratic fashion and respect quotas for women on party candidate lists. Although legally women are supposed to make up 30 percent of a party’s candidate list, this rarely happens in practice and parties don’t suffer any repercussions for not following the quota law;
- Improve communication between party headquarters in the capital and branches in the rest of the country; and
- Raise enough money to ensure that information is disseminated and training occurs in the more rural areas of the country.
These steps are intended to make future elections less violent, more inclusive, more efficient and ultimately more democratic.
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Pictured above: Koleah Keita (l), workshop recorder; Hady Leno, treasurer of the Code of Conduct Monitoring Committee; and Dr. Raphael Ouattara (r), NDI resident senior country director in Guinea; at the workshop in Conakry.
Published April 26, 2011