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Guinea: The Party System from 1963 to 2000, By Michael J. Faber*

From the year that it achieved independence, Guinea was led by Ahmed Sekou Toure, who maintained his dictatorial rule until his death in 1984. During Toure's regime, political opposition was suppressed and only his party, ironically called the Democratic Party, was allowed to exist. The National Assembly, the unicameral legislature of Guinea, was completely in the hands of the Democratic Party, although it held no real power at all. Virtually all of the political power was held by Toure.

After Toure's death in March 1984, members of his Democratic Party attempted to hold the government, but were unsuccessful due to a military coup in April, in which Colonel Lansana Conte seized power. Conte tore down the political institutions set up by Toure, suspending the constitution and making the Democratic Party illegal, and reformed the economic system as well. Conte's reforms were very popular, so he enjoyed the support of his country throughout the 1980s. The National Assembly was disbanded, as Conte created the Military Committee for National Regeneration. This Committee, however, was chosen by Conte and was essentially an advisory body, so there was no legislature during this time.

In the late 1980s, opposition built up against Conte as the democratic forces in Africa grew stronger. In 1989, under tremendous pressure from both outside and inside Guinea, Conte announced that a new Constitution would be drafted, including a five-year transitionary period to democracy. A referendum was held in December of 1990 on the new constitution, and the government reported that it had been overwhelmingly approved.

In December 1991, the Military Committee for National Regeneration was replaced by the Transitional Council for National Recovery, two-thirds of which consisted of civilian members. This Council was supposed to serve as a legislature until parliamentary elections could be held, but "in practice, it was chosen by Conte and by no means constitutes a parliament" (Copson, 1998: 295).

Elections to the new National Assembly were scheduled for December 1992, but Conte postponed these elections, claiming there were insufficient funds for an election. They were rescheduled for December 1993, after the presidential elections. The opposition parties demanded that the parliamentary elections come first, and Conte responded by postponing the elections for another year. In the December 19 presidential election, the opposition failed to present any sort of unified front, and Conte easily won reelection with 52 percent of the votes.

In 1994, the elections were postponed yet again, as Conte announced that the government had not completed preparations to hold them. Finally, in June of 1995, the elections were held, and Conte's Party for Unity and Progress won 71 of the 114 seats in the National Assembly. The Rally of the Guinean People finished second, setting itself up as the primary opposition party with 19 seats. Two other parties won nine seats each, and five others won one or two seats. Among the parties winning seats was Toure's Democratic Party with a single seat in the parliament.

However, the transition to a multiparty system has been far from smooth. First of all, the opposition parties have complained that the elections were tampered with and therefore fraudulent. An independent international evaluation found that there were some irregularities in the counting of votes, but they seemed to be isolated cases and not widespread enough to drastically affect the election.

Furthermore, minority parties have been harassed by the government. In 1997, four leaders of the Rally of the Guniean People were arrested for supposed violent crimes and imprisoned. In 1998, Mamadou Boye Ba, the leader of the Union for the New Republic, was arrested and briefly imprisoned; no charges were filed against him. In December of that year, Alpha Conde, formerly the presidential candidate for the Rally of the Guinean People, was arrested and charged with treason. On May 2, 2000, his trial was postponed indefinitely after disputes between Conde and his lawyers.

Meanwhile, in 1998, the Union for the New Republic and the Party of Renewal and Progress decided that they would be stronger as one party, and they joined together to form the Union for Progress and Renewal. In the 1998 presidential elections, they jointly presented one candidate, Mamadou Boye Ba, who finished second in the balloting. Conte won reelection with 54 percent of the vote; Ba took 25 percent and Conde took 17 percent.

There should have been elections for the parliament in June of 2000 since the members serve five-year terms under the Guinean constitution; however, the elections have been postponed and it is unlikely they will occur this year. The Guinean democracy is still very fragile, although the government is actually very stable, with Conte still very firmly in power, at least in part due to the tremendous (and popular) economic reforms and technological improvements he has put in place. It is a distinct possibility, however, that Guinea will slip back towards dictatorship. Because of Conte's extraordinary power and influence, it is arguably still a dictatorship and never was democratic. Conte's government still controls or censors much of the press, often breaks up by force gatherings of the opposition parties, and takes political prisoners without due process. Because of this, it is unlikely that Guinea will become a truly democratic state before Conte is removed from power, whether by coup or upon his death. Until then, the opposition will likely remain relatively powerless in the political system.

Continuity and Change in Political Parties, 1963-2000

Original Parties from 1950-1962 continuing to 2000

821 Democratic Party. The party of Ahmed Toure, the Democratic Party quickly rose to power with him when Guinea became independent. It held the entire legislature through early 1984, until Toure's death led to Lansana Conte's rise to power. Although it was declared illegal in 1984 and as such suspended its activities for the 1980s and early 1990s, it contested the 1995 election, winning a single seat.

New Parties formed after 1962 and continuing to 2000

822 Party of Unity and Progress. The Party of Unity and Progress was formed under President Lansana Conte more or less as a party to support the government. In the 1995 elections, it won 71 seats out of 114, taking a substantial majority in the parliament. The party, however, seems to center around President Conte, who has served as Guinea's president since 1984, when he led a military coup that seized power after Toure's death.

823 Rally of the Guinean People. Although it emerged the strongest minority party after the 1995 elections, the Rally of the Guinean People is unlikely to remain the strongest due to its ongoing legal troubles. Four of its leaders were arrested and imprisoned in 1997 for inciting violence, and Alpha Conde, its 1998 presidential candidate, was arrested that year and is currently being tried for treason. The party may find new leadership to lead it to a strong finish in the next election, although it is likely to lose support to the newly formed Union for Progress and Renewal, which is attempting to present a united front of opposition.

824 Party of Renewal and Progress. After having contested only one election and winning nine seats, the Party of Renewal and Progress joined with the Union for the New Republic in 1998 to form the Union for Progress and Renewal, which presented a single Presidential candidate; Mamadou Boye Ba finished second in balloting with over a quarter of the vote.

825 Union for the New Republic. The Union for the New Republic won nine seats in the 1995 election led by Mamadou Boye Ba, who finished second in balloting for president in 1998 with over a quarter of the vote. Just prior to the presidential elections, the Union for the New Republic joined the Party of Renewal and Progress to form the Union for Progress and Renewal, which presented a single Presidential candidate in Ba.

826 Union for the Prosperity of Guinea. The Union of Prosperity of Guinea was the fourth most successful opposition party in 1995, winning two seats.


Copson, Raymond (1998). Guinea, in Kurian, George Thomas (ed.). World Encyclopedia of Parliaments and Legislatures (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly Inc.).

Keesing's Record of World Events 1995-2000 (London: Keesing's Limited).

*Participant in Northwestern University's Summer Camp on Party Research, June-August, 2000.