Conakry (AFP) - Speculation that Guinean President Alpha Conde will bid for a third term gained ground on Thursday after his party urged him to run and he acknowledged their appeal.
The ruling RPG party called on the 82-year-old president to run for re-election this year, despite deadly clashes that have erupted in the West African state over this scenario.
Under Guinea's constitution, presidents may only serve two terms.
Conde was elected president in 2010 and again in 2015. But this year he pushed through a revamped constitution that opponents say was crafted to reset the term counter, enabling him to run again.
His Rally of the Guinean People (RPG) pushed for Conde as its presidential candidate at a convention in the capital Conakry.
Party members are issuing a "plea to President Alpha Conde to accept the will of the people to be the RPG's sole candidate," MP Diakagbe Kaba told around 350 delegates.
The RPG wants "a national and total mobilisation, including all the structures of the party, for a victory in the first round of the presidential election," said Zeinab Camara, rapporteur of the committee in charge of electoral strategy.
Conde acknowledged the request before the delegates, although he did not explicitly commit to running again. "I take note, you heard me, I take note," he said.
"If you want me to accept your proposal, you have to commit yourself to making the RPG what it used to be, a party that forgets no one," he added, referring to women, youngsters and the poor.
"The main battle will be to fight corruption".
For months, Conde has been carefully non-committal about whether he intends to run again, saying only that it is "the party which will decide."
Guinea's electoral commission has proposed the presidential election be held on October 18, but Conde has yet to sign off on a date.
Thursday's developments are likely to incense Guinea's embattled opposition, which has staged mass rallies since October against the possibility of Conde bidding for a third term.
Security forces in the former French colony repeatedly cracked down on the protests, in which several dozen civilians were killed.
Opposition figures also attempted to organise a boycott of the referendum in March, but the vote went ahead despite protests.
According to the official results, the constitution was approved by 91.59 percent of those voting, with a turnout of 61 percent.
Conde is a former opposition figure himself who was jailed under Guinea's previous iron-fisted regimes.
Hopes of a new political dawn flowered when Conde became Guinea's first democratically elected president in 2010, but critics say he has become increasingly authoritarian.
The country, which is rich in minerals, suffers from entrenched poverty and a history of instability.
But Prime Minister Kassory Fofana opened the convention on Wednesday declaring that Conde was the right choice as "the world faces the COVID-19 pandemic and where violence is widespread".
"The difficult times are menacing, but I am sure we will emerge victorious under the leadership of President Alpha Conde," he said.
Malick Sankon, a member of the RPG's national political bureau, said Wednesday that he expected Conde to accept the party's request.
"We have no alternative, nobody has emerged, so we are continuing to tell him to do the work and we will see later," Sankon told AFP.
Eric Humphery-Smith, an analyst at risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft, said that he expected Conde to "stall before accepting his party’s nomination".
He suggested that the octogenarian leader would likely seek to gauge the international response to Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara, who may also seek a third presidential term.
Conde had already received support earlier this week from a coalition of parties allied to the RPG, the Democratic Convention for Change in Continuity (CODECC).
Its spokesman, Hydraulics Minister Papa Koly Kourouma, had praised his achievements, especially in terms of "economic take-off".