Guinea opposition boycotts parliament in election row

Prime Minister Cellou Dalein Diallo, President of the Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea, speaks during an interview on January 29, 2015, in Washington, DC (AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski) (AFP/File)

Conakry (AFP) - Guinea's opposition withdrew its lawmakers from parliament Wednesday and said it would no longer recognise the election commission in protest over the timetable for presidential elections.

The vote is due to be held in the Ebola-hit nation on October 11, the commission said last week, following doubts over its timing.

"We decided yesterday... to suspend our participation in the work of the National Assembly and withdraw our 49 lawmakers until further notice and no longer recognise the national independent election commission," said opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo.

The opposition has accused President Alpha Conde of using the Ebola epidemic as an excuse to postpone elections and of refusing to enter into a dialogue over the timetable.

More than 10,000 people have died of Ebola, almost all in west Africa, since it emerged in Guinea in December 2013.

The opposition had called for local elections -- originally planned for the beginning of 2014 -- to be held before the presidential vote but they will not now take place until March 2016, according to the election commission.

Diallo, president of the Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea and a former prime minister, said the commission "does what the government asks it to do, it totally ignores the opposition".

"We will take steps to ensure that such interference ceases for the good of all," he said, without elaborating.

The government coalition led by Conde's Rally of the Guinean People (RPG) denounced the boycott as a "trap the opposition is setting that we will not fall into" and said it would not impact the work of the National Assembly.

The last election in Guinea -- September 2013's parliamentary vote -- was delayed by almost three years, stoking deadly ethnic tensions that have dogged Guinean politics since independence.

The polls gave the RPG and its junior partners an absolute majority in the parliament but the ballot came under heavy criticism from opposition parties alleging "massive fraud" including ballot stuffing and voter intimidation.

International observers said serious flaws had affected the credibility of the vote and anti-government demonstrators staged several protests in Conakry over a Supreme Court ruling confirming the result.

One of the poorest countries in the region despite vast potential for mineral exploitation, Guinea was run by a succession of autocratic rulers after gaining independence from France in 1958.