CW 36/2021: In the name of democracy?
Press Review 4 September 2021 to 10 September 2021

Coup d’état in Guinea

On Sunday, a special military unit in Guinea took power from President Alpha Condé, suspended the constitution and dissolved parliament. The coup is considered as a reaction to the disenchantment that has recently grown in the country toward President Condé, who is accused of corruption and mismanagement. In 2010, Condé became the first democratically legitimized head of state in the West African nation of 13 million inhabitants. However, after taking office for his second term in 2015, the president made a highly controversial amendment to the constitution in March 2020 that enabled him to bypass the two-term limit. This increased criticism of authoritarian tendencies toward the 83-year-old. As a result, there were mass protests that led to the imprisonment of numerous people and also cost human lives. With the declared aim of restoring democratic order to the state, an elite group of special forces led by Lieutenant Colonel Mamady Doumbouya therefore entered the Guinean capital of Conakry on Sunday and announced the acquisition of power. Following Condé’s arrest and the military’s replacement of top governors and other high-ranking administration officials, a transitional government was proclaimed under the project of forming a new national entity and an officer-led National Committee for Reunification and Development (CNRD) was established. The committee received full military support at a meeting on Tuesday with the state’s chiefs of staff, and Condé’s opponent, opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo, also expressed support for the CNRD. In addition, as a first sign of change, approximately 80 opposition members who had been imprisoned during the mass protests were released. While the people of Guinea are largely supportive of the current events, internationally there is a growing voice of broad diplomatic condemnation. A virtual extraordinary summit of ECOWAS scheduled for Wednesday decided to suspend Guinea from the Economic Community and called for the immediate release of the president and a return to constitutional order. Furthermore, an ECOWAS commission will be sent to Guinea to examine the situation and to mediate between the actors. However, never in the 46 years of existence of the Economic Community of African States (ECOWAS) has the overthrow of a government been revoked. The African Union (AU) followed the ECOWAS ruling, announcing on Friday that it was dismissing Guinea from all AU activities and decision-making bodies. The military coup marks the third coup in West Africa in five months.

Parliamentary elections in Morocco

In the parliamentary and regional elections in Morocco, the Justice and Development Party (PJD), which has been in power since 2011 and had 125 seats in parliament so far, suffered a surprising defeat winning only 12 seats in parliament. Two liberal and one center-right parties won significantly more votes. The National Rally of Independents Party (RNI) won 97 seats, the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) 82 seats and the Istiqlal Party 78 seats in the 395-seat parliament. The liberal RNI, which is considered a party close to the royal palace and which is led by Morocco’s second richest man, Aziz Akhannouch, will thus be the strongest faction in the government. The prime minister will be appointed from the RNI by King Mohammed VI. Since the new constitution of 2011, the parliament’s areas of responsibility have been expanded, but important decisions regarding agricultural, energy and industrial policy are still taken by the royal palace. Thus, the King also presents the national development plan, and the approval of all parties is considered assured. A total of 18 million eligible voters were called on Wednesday to elect their representatives in the third parliamentary election since 2011. In order to increase the previously low voter turnout, the parliamentary and regional elections this year were held on the same day for the first time. At 50.35%, the turnout was higher than in the last parliamentary elections in 2016, when it was 43%, and exceeded the expectations of some analyses, which had assumed 35% in advance. The election campaigns, which were severely constrained by the COVID-19 pandemic, were accompanied by allegations of vote buying in the run-up. In addition, the PJD complained of voting irregularities on Wednesday evening even before the results were announced. Allegedly, cash had been distributed near polling stations and some voters had not been listed in the registers. However, the interior minister rejected all allegations and announced that apart from isolated incidents, the elections had proceeded normally.

In other news

Last Sunday, the 16th Paralympic Summer Games in Tokyo came to an end. With 4,403 athletes from a total of 163 different countries, more athletes than ever before took part in this year’s games. 38 African countries were among the participating countries, ten of which won medals. Tunisia was the most successful African nation with a total of four gold, five silver and two bronze medals, putting it in 28th place in the world medal table. Raoua Tlili from Tunisia was particularly successful, winning two gold medals – in discus throw and shot put. Overall, some African countries fell short of their expectations. With a total of 57 medals, there were significantly fewer podium places than at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, where African athletes won 99 medals.

Event announcement

From 16 to 25 September, the Human Rights Film Festival Berlin will take place for the fourth time. Under the title “The Art of Change”, this year’s hybrid edition of the festival will spend ten days telling the stories of activists working for human rights in various forms. Among them are four films that take place on the African continent: Finding Sally (Ethiopia), SÍRÍRÍ (Central African Republic), The last shelter (Mali) and Toxic Business (Kenya) will be shown with two presentations each between 17/9 and 25/9.

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