By James Tasamba
KIGALI, Rwanda (AA) - Voters in Guinea will go to the polls on Sunday to elect members of parliament and vote on the constitutional referendum in an election boycotted by the opposition.
The electoral campaign which started on March 15 ended on Friday.
About five million voters are registered for the vote, according to the Independent National Electoral Commission.
The date of the legislative elections and the referendum was postponed twice -- initially from Feb. 16 to March 1, then to March 22.
A total of 43 opposition political parties selected by the electoral commission are in the race.
However, the election has been boycotted by other opposition groups, the Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea and the Union of Republican Forces -- which oppose any amendments to the Guinean constitution.
The amendment seeks to increase the president’s term to seven years from five.
Critics accuse President Alpha Conde of planning to use the constitutional referendum to extend his stay in power.
Once approved, Conde’s previous terms served would not be considered.
Conde, 82, whose second and final term ends in December, is constitutionally barred from running for a third term.
He has not clearly indicated his interests in running again, only insisting in media interviews that the decision lies in the hands of his party.
The constitutional amendments can be approved after more than 50% of the votes cast are in favor.
Since last October, opposition supporters have engaged in running battles with security forces, demanding Conde’s exit after his term comes to an end.
“Guinean authorities must immediately release all those arbitrarily detained and stop indiscriminate round-ups in areas of the capital deemed to be protesting,” Amnesty International said in a statement on Saturday.
“Young people in the capital Conakry, estimated to number as high as 40, have been arbitrarily arrested in recent weeks and taken into custody in a military camp,” it said.
Some civil society groups had called for the postponement of polls due to coronavirus fears.
But Amadou Damaro Camara, a spokesman for the ruling Rally of the Guinean People party, told reporters that the virus would not derail the voting.
Guinea has reported two cases of the virus, according to the National Agency for Health Security.
In a statement Wednesday, police warned against acts of incivility and disturbance of public order and any infringement of citizens' right to vote, adding that perpetrators would be punished in accordance with the provisions of the electoral code and the penal code.
The International Mission of Civil Society Observers, composed of electoral experts and civil society actors from French speaking countries in the region, called on Guineans to unite around values that promote the best interests of the nation, and guarantee sustainable development.