Guineans began voting on Sunday in a tense presidential election that sees Alpha Condé, 82, incumbent for a controversial third term.
The leader circumvented a two-term limit in March by reforming the constitution. The move sparked mass protests, which left dozens of people dead in security crackdowns.
The campaign for the first round of the poll was marked by insults exchanged between Condé and his main rival Cellou Dalein Diallo.
Sporadic clashes between rival supporters have erupted across Guinea in recent days, raising fears of further violence on election day.
Diallo, 68, now the main opposition politician in Guinea, was previously prime minister under authoritarian leader Lansana Conte.
Guinea’s election is the first in a series across West Africa, to be followed by Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Ghana and Niger.
Campaigners are worried if Condé wins, it could bode well for democratic standards in the region.
Condé has vowed to boost the economy of the nation of some 13 million people, fight corruption and increase Guinea’s dismal access to electricity.
He pledged to make Guinea “Africa’s second (economic) power after Nigeria”.
But Guineans interviewed by AFP expressed deep frustration with the state of the country, regardless of their political stripes.
The country is rich in minerals such as bauxite, iron and gold, and has abundant freshwater resources. But it is still one of the poorest countries in the world.
“In 10 years, Alpha Condé has done nothing,” said Aminata Barry, a 36-year-old opposition supporter, adding that he had made “only promises”.
But Condé has a base of supporters who hail his efforts to boost the economy.
“Despite his age, we want it for the future of our youth,” lawyer Sekou Diakate, 47, who was among the thousands of people present at a rally in Condé, told AFP on Friday.
Some 5.4 million registered voters are expected to vote and the first results are expected to be announced several days later.
A second round is scheduled for November 24.