Guinea opposition pulls out of parliament, threatening protests

CONAKRY Mon Jun 9, 2014 2:25pm EDT

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CONAKRY (Reuters) - Guinea's main opposition parties withdrew from parliament on Monday and threatened to hold street protests over delays in organizing local elections promised in a political deal with the government last year.

Mineral-rich Guinea completed its transition to civilian rule with parliamentary elections last year but tensions run deep between the rival camps and protests frequently turn violent.

Although many in the political class have already turned their attention to 2015 elections in which President Alpha Conde is expected to seek a second term, local elections were due to be held early this year, according to the deal signed between rival parties in 2013.

"We have decided to withdraw from the National Assembly," Aboubacar Sylla, a spokesman for the opposition alliance, told journalists on Monday.

"At the same time, we are organizing protests on the main roads and in public places to denounce the attitude of the government, which is refusing to stick to the agreements signed on July 3," Sylla added.

The July 2013 agreement laid out a road map for last year's parliamentary vote and the local elections. The government has not given any reason for the delay in holding the vote.

A government spokesman said the opposition's decision was a surprise as they had recently been in contact with the prime minister over holding talks.

"We regret that the opposition, which claims to have the country's best interests at heart, withdraws just as concrete progress is being made," Damantang Albert Camara told Reuters.

Conde and his allies secured a majority in last year's vote but the opposition alliance controls 54 seats in the 114-seat parliament.

Their absence would mean some laws that require the presence of two-thirds of parliament for votes cannot be passed.

It would also undermine efforts to deepen democracy in a country that is rich in minerals but has seen little but dictatorship and misrule since independence from France.

Underscoring the importance of the parliamentary vote last year, the European Union released 140 million euros ($192 million) in aid soon after it was held.

No details were given for when demonstrations might start. Last year's vote was repeatedly delayed and dozens of people were killed in protests over preparations for the election.

The International Monetary Fund said on Monday that it expects economic growth to rebound later this year after social and political tensions saw it slow to 2.3 percent in 2013 and an outbreak of Ebola virus weighed on the economy in 2014.

Guinea's iron ore mines are home to some of the world's biggest untapped reserves and have attracted investments from the world's biggest mining firms, including Rio Tinto and Vale.

However, political instability in the run-up to last year's election unnerved investors.

(Additional reporting by Anna Yukhananov in Washington; Writing by David Lewis; Editing by Andrew Roche)

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