June 25, 2010, 9:42 pm
By Deborah Hakes
Deborah Hakes is assistant director of public information for The Carter Center.
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Through the open second-story window of a mayor’s office outside Conakry, Guinea, came the sounds of hundreds of people passing by, some blowing on whistles and shouting for candidates, others riding in or on cars with horns and speakers blaring. Above the din, we sometimes struggled to hear the mayor tell us about the electoral preparations in his community. While Guinea faces challenges to fully prepare for Sunday’s elections, the enthusiasm of its citizens cannot be denied.
Guinea’s rapid six-month transition from military rule to the promise and hope of democratic elections, to be held on Sunday, required multiparty agreement on a constitutional and electoral framework. The result of their collaboration is to be commended; yet some confusion remains, which was noted in the Carter Center’s June 21 statement and also today by some of the Center’s 30 observers as they visited communities in their deployment regions.
While many people in the community we visited were aware of the electoral process, had their voter IDs, and knew where to go to vote, others spoke of people who did not want to vote or did not know where to do so, and we found that some polling stations were difficult to locate on the unmarked side streets or had been moved.
Our journey took us from the restaurants and salons along the busy streets of the community’s center to speaking with the Chef de Quartier (neighborhood leader) in rural areas where chickens were more common than cars and where women washed and hung laundry across the narrow street, as we mapped out polling stations for the observers’ team to visit on Sunday.
A common thread we found though was an interest in the elections and a positive attitude of wanting to make it work, to make it happen. Credible elections promise to mark a turning point for Guinea and a strong step forward toward peaceful civilian and democratic rule in a country led by military dictatorships for more than 50 years.
Listen to Carter Center election observer Christof Kurz discuss Guinea’s election:
Click image below to watch video.