Guinea’s President Alpha Conde on Monday left the door open to running for a third term, saying there was “nothing more democratic” than his planned constitutional referendum, which the opposition calls a ploy for him to retain power.
The West African country’s current constitution prohibits Conde from running for a third term, but asked if he would stand for president again, he told French media that it was for his party to decide.
The ruling Rally of the Guinean People (RPG) party “can nominate me as it can nominate someone else. For the moment, it is not my concern,” he told France 24 and RFI radio.
The country’s opposition, which has long suspected Conde of seeking to retain power, has led protests since mid-October that have rocked the country and left at least 28 civilians and one police officer dead.
Conde, 81, was a longtime opposition figure who became the nation’s first-ever elected president in 2010 on promises to fight corruption. He was re-elected in 2015.
But he has questioned the relevance of restricting the presidency to two terms.
While a draft constitution maintains the two-term limit, critics fear Conde could use the new text to reset the clock and allow himself two more mandates.
Conde defended the referendum on Monday, saying his current concern was to “endow the country with a constitution that meets the needs of today’s world.”
He said his priorities included “equality between men and women, the fight against genital mutilation, girls being married before the age of 18, and above all the correct sharing of resources,” especially for “the young and the vulnerable”.
“If we want a modern constitution, what is more democratic than a referendum? The British prime minister held a referendum and lost. (Former French president Charles) de Gaulle held a referendum and lost. There is nothing more democratic.”
Last week the US said it was concerned by the planned vote.
“We question whether the process will be free, fair and transparent and accurately reflect the will of all eligible voters,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The European Union meanwhile has said that “unity and peace in Guinea must prevail over partisan interests”.