afrol News, 10 June - Alpha Condé, the "eternal opposition leader" of Guinea who is widely believed to have won the 1993 presidential election, is gathering the largest crowds as Guinea's first truly democratic poll has kicked off.
Mr Condé is the most famous opposition figure in Guinea, imprisoned and exiled several times during the authoritarian regime of late President Lansana Conté. Guinean voters and the local press now treat him as the great favourite to win the 27 June presidential election.
The leader of the Rally of the People of Guinea (RPG) opposition party has another great advantage, continuously publicised by his campaigners: Mr Condé is sold as the only major Guinean politician with clean hands, who has never participated in the "economic crime" that had ruined the country under previous governments.
Guinean voters are indeed fed up with corrupt and authoritarian regimes, which have dominated the country since independence in 1958 and left the potentially rich nation in deep poverty and underdevelopment. There is a general distrust in any authority, any institution and any holder of power.
The campaign of RPG leader Condé knows to capitalise on this distrust in the established. "Together we will change Guinea" is the short and effective slogan of the campaign. And crowds indeed quickly gather when Mr Condé or his local allies organise rallies around the country, demanding real change.
Mr Condé's political programme focuses on democracy and economic development, especially in the run-down agricultural sector. As Guinean President, he promises to focus on national unity, strengthening democracy and fundamental freedoms, food self-sufficiency in three years, education and health for all and structural reforms of the economy to attract foreign investments.
The RPG has its stronghold in the populous Haute Guinée province of the interior around the city of Kankan. Indeed, the former regime could only maintain its grip on power after the 1993 elections by cancelling all votes from Kankan and Siguiri. Local media in Haute Guinée, such as 'Radio-KanKan' report of other opposition parties now rallying behind Mr Condé, seeing this as a signal that the RPG is on a road "towards victory."
But also in the other main population centre of Guinea, the capital Conakry, opposition politicians, the media and the crowds gather around the Condé campaign for change. Already on his 10 April return from exile, crowds of several hundred thousands greeted Mr Condé in Conakry - the RPG even put the number at "more than a million."
Mr Condé, after his long profiling as the Guinean opposition leader and his long stays in exile - he is a lecturer at France's prestigious Sorbonne university - also has the advantage of the best party organisation. His RPG even has large local offices in several European countries, and donations from Diaspora members are believed to make the RPG campaign the best financed in this year's election.
Other leading candidates to the Guinean presidency are said to be Cellou Dalein Diallo and Sidya Touré, while tens of minor candidates struggle to gain attention.
Mr Diallo was Prime Minister in Guinea 2004-06 and now leads the Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea (UFDG). His stronghold is the third main population centre of Guinea, the historically dominant Fouta Djallon region. While his former position as PM means Mr Diallo is part of the hated old establishment, he was renowned for trying to fight corruption. As an opposition leader, he was central to the mass protests in Conakry in September 2009, ending in a bloodbath.
Also Mr Touré is a former Prime Minister (1996-99), but has headed the opposition Union of Republican Forces (UFR) since being sacked by President Conté. Since 2000, he was among the most visible opposition leaders living in Guinea, also central to September 2009 Conakry riots.
The 27 June elections will pose the first real chance of these Guinean opposition politicians to ascend to the presidency. The few earlier multi-party elections in Guinea are all considered to have been massively manipulated in favour of the incumbent strongman. Changes of power have so far only come through military coup.
Also after the long expected death of ailing President Conté on 22 December 2008, the army quickly took power in a coup led by Captain Moussa Dadis Camara. After a hesitant start, Mr Camara has defended a full transition towards democracy. Following the September 2009 riots, it became clear that the military ruler would not stand candidate at the presidential elections and as such assure a free and fair poll.
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