Alpha Condé, Guinea’s 82-year-old head of state, will this Sunday ask his country’s 5.4 million voters for a third term, opening what promises to be a tense, high-stakes electoral season for West Africa, with contests soon following in Ivory Coast, Ghana and Niger.

If he fails to clinch outright victory with more than 50% of the vote, the president will probably have to face off against his leading opponent, Cellou Dalein Diallo, in a run-off that on past form will probably spark violent confrontation on the streets of Conakry.

Mr Condé’s accession to power in December 2010 was the first genuinely democratic handover in his country’s 52-year independent history – a saga of authoritarian and military rule mashed with episodes of severe repression and spectacular brutality, the most recent of which had been the 28 September 2009 massacre, when troops killed at least 160 opposition supporters, and raped 110 women, attending a rally at the national stadium.

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