CONAKRY, May 30 (Reuters) - Guinea’s government on Thursday officially declared open campaigning for a disputed June 30 legislative election despite an unyielding stance by opposition parties that have demanded the date of the vote be annulled.
The government’s decision to go ahead with the election is likely to set it on a collision course with the opposition and escalate violent protests that have rocked the world’s top bauxite producing nation since March.
Accusing President Alpha Conde of trying to push through a vote they believe his is trying to rig, Guinea’s opposition leaders have held a series of protests that have killed 50 people and injured 350 more.
Campaigning for the election began at midnight and will end on June 28, according to a statement read on Guinea’s state radio on Thursday.
But Guinea’s opposition rejected the announcement saying the vote would not take place.
“The decree does not make sense. You can not start a campaign for an election that will not take place,” said Sidya Toure, a former prime minister who is now one of the leaders of the opposition.
“This decree is totally inappropriate. Everyone knows that June 30 is technically impossible to stick to,” Toure said, adding that the opposition would only accept to rejoin the electoral process if the June 30 date is annulled.
Streets around several neighbourhoods in the seaside capital were barricaded by groups of young opposition supporters, but there were no reports of violence.
The long-delayed legislative elections are intended to complete Guinea’s transition to civilian rule following a military coup in 2008.
The opposition accuses the government of trying to rig the vote and regional diplomats have struggled to get both sides to take part in talks to reduce tensions.
Guinea’s opposition says it was not consulted before the government announced the date for the election and says voter lists are being revised in favour of Conde’s allies.
They are calling for the company contracted by the government to revise voter lists, South African firm Waymark, to be replaced and are demanding that Guineans abroad be allowed to vote. (Reporting by Saliou Samb; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Alison Williams)