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Guinea election body sets tentative date for poll

President Alpha Conde last month postponed both votes, which were originally scheduled for 1 March, after criticism of their fairness.

This undated handout picture courtesy of the British Health Protection Agency shows the coronavirus seen under an electron microscope. Picture: AFP.

CONAKRY, Guinea - Guinea's electoral authority on Thursday suggested 22 March as a date for holding a delayed constitutional referendum and parliamentary poll, although the country's constitutional court must still sign off on it.

President Alpha Conde last month postponed both votes, which were originally scheduled for 1 March, after criticism of their fairness.

The West African country has seen huge demonstrations over the proposal to change the constitution, which many fear will allow Conde, 82, to seek a third term in office this year.

Since the protests began in October at least 31 protesters and one gendarme have been killed, according to an AFP tally.

On Thursday, Guinea's Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) suggested 22 March as a new date for the votes, the body's spokesman Aly Bokar Samoura said.

But he added that the constitutional court must sign off first, and that the president also has to sign an official decree.

The former French colony's current constitution mandates two five-year presidential terms. Under the new constitution, there would be two six-year terms.

But critics argue the new constitution would also reset the term counter to zero, allowing Conde to run again when his second term ends this year, a possibility the government has not denied.

The president postponed the referendum and parliamentary poll on February 28 after several international organisations criticised Guinea's electoral roll.

The International Organisation of French Speaking Countries said last month that the roll contained some 2.49 million problematic names, including duplicates and those of people who had died.

On Wednesday, experts from the West Africa bloc ECOWAS recommended expunging some 2.5 million voter names from the rollover a lack of proper identification.