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GUINEA: Conte faces virtually no opposition in presidential election

CONAKRY, 12 November 2003 (IRIN) - Guinea's ailing president, Lansana Conte will be virtually unchallenged when he goes to the polls on 21 December to seek a new seven-year term.

Nominations closed on Monday and on Tuesday night a special panel of the supreme court said it had approved only one other candidate to stand against him.

This is Mamadou Bhoye Barry, the lone parliamentary deputy of a small and virtually unknown party, the Union for National Progress, which supports Conte's ruling Party for Unity and Progress.

The independent internet news service, Guineenews, described Barry as a veterinary surgeon who is a close friend of the president and looks after the health of the animals on his farms.

The supreme court panel said it had disqualified six other candidates for various administrative technicalities.

However, the presidential election had already been boycotted by all of Guinea's main opposition parties, which alleged that it would not be free or fair.

Former prime minister Sidya Toure, veteran opposition leader Alpha Conde and other respected figures such as Ba Mamadou and Jean-Marie Dore announced earlier this month that they would not take part in the election.

These opposition leaders, grouped in the Republican Front for Democratic Change (FRAD), pulled out after Conte's government turned down their demands for a genuinely independent electoral commission and free access to state radio and television.

Conte, a former army colonel, came to power in a 1984 coup and has ruled this former French colony of eight million people with an iron hand ever since.

He is now aged 69 and diplomats say he has been ill with diabetes and heart problems for several years. Conte himself has admitted that he is unwell and diplomats say he often has difficulty walking.

The president was forced to cut short an official visit to Saudi Arabia and abandon a planned trip to Japan last year because of health problems. However, he has recently been on private trips to Italy and Cuba, apparently to seek medical treatment.

Conte warned his supporters in the ruling party when they nominated him unanimously as presidential candidate in September, that he did not plan to take any active part in the election campaign.

The European Union which has withheld hundreds of millions of dollars of aid from Guinea because of Conte's refusal to undertake political reforms, has said it would neither finance the election nor send observers to monitor the poll.

Theme (s): Governance,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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