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In the news: Guineans vote in controversial referendum amid coronavirus outbreak

An opposition boycott and two cases of COVID-19 didn’t stop the vote, which could help Guinea’s president cling on to power.

Guinea President Alpha Condé
Guinea President Alpha Condé addressing the European Parliament in 2018. (© European Union 2018 - European Parliament)

A controversial constitutional referendum that could allow Guinea’s president to hold on to power went ahead on Sunday despite an opposition boycott and two confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country.

At least 10 people were killed in clashes with security forces, according to an opposition umbrella group known as the FNDC, while voting equipment was vandalised by anti-government protesters.

President Alpha Condé says the constitutional changes will help the government introduce new social reforms. But opponents say they will reset presidential term limits, enabling the 82-year-old – in power since 2010 – to stand for a third term in office

The referendum – supposed to be held last month – was postponed after international observers raised concerns over nearly 2.5 million “problematic” names on the electoral register, including duplicates, deceased people, and those too young to vote.

Human Rights Watch said more than 30 people have been killed since widespread demonstrations against the new constitution began late last year.

Critics said Sunday’s vote should not have gone ahead as cases of COVID-19 rise across Africa.

“I have the impression our country is taking things lightly,” Amadou Oury Bah, a banker and politician, told AFP.

– Philip Kleinfeld

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