Guinea’s president declared late that the date for landmark parliamentary elections should only be set once there is agreement among rival parties on the timing, defusing a row that has already sparked deadly clashes.
The polls in the world’s largest exporter of the aluminium ore bauxite were due to be held on December 29, in line with international donor requests they take place before the end of the year. But, opposition parties had long insisted such a timeframe did not give them enough time to prepare.
The election date is now open to negotiation, Reuters reports.
“He (President Alpha Conde) said the date will be fixed by consensus,” opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo, who was defeated by Conde in a disputed 2010 presidential election, told reporters after talks.
Mamady Diawara, a senior aide to Conde, confirmed the outcome of the discussions, adding: “This is the first time I have seen a president acknowledge his mistakes.”
The European Union has said it will only resume full cooperation with the West African state after the polls, potentially unblocking aid worth millions of dollars for an impoverished country with crumbling infrastructure.
In September at least three people died and 300 were injured as security forces put down an opposition protest over the election timing in the capital Conakry.
The opposition also fear that a planned revision of voter lists will skew the vote in Conde’s favour. That review was delayed last month, and it is not clear when it will take place.
It has been a turbulent three years since a December 2008 overthrow of longtime leader Lansana Conte. Soldiers who seized power in a bloodless coup refused to hand power back to civilians, triggering a pro-democracy rally in Sept 2009 in which more than 150 were killed and women protesters were gang-raped by security forces.
A change of leadership within the junta finally led to an agreement to hold elections in June 2010 which Conde won amid allegations of vote-rigging. The parliamentary polls are to complete the transition to civilian rule.
Underlying the continued tension in the country, in July Conde escaped unhurt from an attack on his residence by heavily-armed assailants.