Guinea - Political parties

From 1945, when political activity began in Guinea, until about 1953, the political scene was one of loose electoral alliances that relied more on the support of traditional chiefs and of the French administration than on political programs or organized memberships. After 1953, however, these alliances rapidly lost ground to the Guinea section of the African Democratic Rally (Rassemblement Démocratique Africain—RDA), an interterritorial organization founded in 1946. This section, known as the Guinea Democratic Party (Parti Démocratique de Guinée—PDG), was formed by Marxists determined to develop an organized mass political movement that cut across ethnic differences and had a strongly nationalist outlook. Their leader was Ahmed Sékou Touré, a prominent trade union leader in French West Africa. The alleged great-grandson of the warriorchief Samory who had fought the French in the late 19th century, Touré had much support in areas where Samory had fought his last battles, although his strongest backers were the Susu in Lower Guinea. In 1957, the PDG won 57 of 60 seats in Territorial Assembly elections.

Convinced that the French Community proposed by De Gaulle would not result in real independence for the people of French West Africa, Touré called for a vote against joining the Community in the referendum of 28 September 1958. Some 95% of those voting in Guinea supported Touré in opting for Guinea's complete independence. In December 1958, the opposition parties fused with Touré's PDG, making it the only political party in the country. The precipitous withdrawal of the French bureaucracy in 1958 led, almost of necessity, to the PDG's inheritance of much of the structure of government.

During the 1960s, the PDG's party machinery was organized down to the grassroots level, with local committees replacing tribal authorities, and sectional, regional, and national conferences ensuring coordination and control. In 1968, a new local unit within the PDG, the Local Revolutionary Command (Pouvoir Révolutionnaire Local—PRL) was organized. By 1973, the PRL had assumed complete responsibility for local economic, social, and political affairs. There were 2,441 PRLs in 1981, each directed by a committee of seven members and headed by a mayor. Each of the 35 regions had a party decision-making body called a Federal Congress, headed by a secretary. A 13-member Federal Committee, headed by the regional governor, was the executive body. The 170 districts had similar bodies, called sections, congresses, and committees.

The Political Bureau, nominally responsible to a Central Committee, was the PDG's chief executive body. Until the military coup that abolished the PDG in April 1984, the Political Bureau was the focus of party and national power, and its members were the most important government ministers and officials, with Touré as chairman. The PDG and its mass organizations were outlawed after the 1984 coup.

Political parties were legalized in April 1992. Within a month, more than 30 parties had been formed, a number by government ministers who helped themselves to state funds and used the state agencies to promote their campaigns. The use of government vehicles for partisan activities and the disbursement of state monies to supporters were commonplace.

By July 1992, government had banned all political demonstrations. This hampered opposition parties preparing for National Assembly elections then scheduled for late 1992 and presidential elections scheduled for early 1993. Elections were delayed. By October 1993, 43 political parties were legally registered. At least a dozen were allied with the government Party for Unity and Progress (PUP) while nearly thirty belonged to a loose coalition, the Democratic Forum, whose objective was to present a common candidate to run against Conté. The Forum dissolved when two of its members admitted they had already made their campaign deposit, which legally entitled them to enter the race. At that point, the field of candidates widened pitting seven opposition leaders against Conté. In December 1993, despite official protests by the opposition, Lansana Conté officially won 51.7% of the vote. International observers noted isolated incidents of violence and destruction of ballot boxes, and further declared the campaigning and balloting unsatisfactory.

In 1993, the most significant national opposition parties were the Rally for the Guinean People (RPG), the Union for a New Republic (UNR), and the Party for Renewal and Progress (PRP). The PRP and the UNR later merged to form the UPR, which presented Mamadou Ba as its candidate in the December 1998 elections. In these elections, Ba took second place with 24.6% of the vote, Alpha Condé (RPG) received 16.9%, Jean-Marie Doré received 1.7% (UPG), and Charles Pascal Tolno (PPG) claimed1.0%. Again, under protest from the opposition, Conté won on the first round with 54.1% officially. The next presidential elections are scheduled for December 2003.

In the National Assembly, 38 seats are elected by single-member district, and 76 are assigned by proportional voting. Elections were last held 30 June 2002 with the PUP taking 61.6%, the UPR 26.6%, and other 11.8%. The number of seats by party was PUP 85, UPR 20, and other 9 with the PUP gaining a two-thirds majority—a significant increase over the 71 seats it held since the June 1995 elections. The opposition denounced the contest as fraudulent. The next legislative elections were scheduled for 2007.

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