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Guineans set to vote in presidential election

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Voters in Guinea will head to the polls on Sunday to elect the country’s next president, in a tense election that comes after months of deadly unrest.

Nearly five million voters are eligible to cast ballots in the presidential contest that pits incumbent Alpha Conde against 11 challengers, most notably former Prime Minister Cellou Dalein Diallo.

Conde, 82, is seeking a controversial third term after pushing through a revamped constitution earlier this year that critics denounced as a plot to sidestep a two-term limit on presidential mandates.

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The new constitution was overwhelmingly supported by voters in a March 22 referendum that was boycotted by Conde’s political rivals and civil society organisations. The result means Conde could potentially now remain the country’s president for 12 more years.

Diallo, 68, was at the forefront of mass demonstrations against the proposed changes, which were met with a harsh crackdown by security forces.

On the eve of the election, Amadou Camara, a businessman in the capital, Conakry, said he was still undecided about heading out to vote on Sunday.

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“The thought of voting and your ballot not counting makes me sick. Many Guineans are not happy with the process leading up to the elections,” said the 45-year-old.

“Some of us who support the opposition were looking forward to participating in the elections but the constitutional change and the deadly protests has shown us that Conde is desperate to remain in power,” he added. “This is not what we envisaged for our country. We were expecting to consolidate on a smooth democratic transition rather than a tenure elongation programme.”

In 2010, Conde became Guinea’s first democratically elected leader after decades of military rule. He was re-elected in 2015.

Before assuming office, Conde had been a long-standing opposition figure who was jailed and exiled for his views against Guinea’s military government.

“I am a democrat,” Conde said in a recent interview with French media outlets after being asked whether he would accept the outcome of Sunday’s vote. “It’s extraordinary that I should be seen as an anti-democratic dictator,” Conde added. “I fought for 45 years, I was in the opposition.”—AL JAZEERA

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