Vote counting began in Guinea-Bissau after a heavy turnout in Sunday’s legislative and presidential elections meant to bring stability to the West African state after years of coups and political infighting. No major incidents were reported by the close of polls and monitors said they expected a record turnout. The electoral commission said turnout had reached 60 percent by 1430 GMT (10.30 a.m. EDT) but did not give more detailed numbers. At sunset, officials in Pefine, a neighborhood in the crumbling capital Bissau, sat under a mango tree tallying ballots under the watchful eyes of residents and election observers. Results are due by Friday. If no candidate wins an outright majority, a second round will be held between the top two.
“I’ve voted for Guinea-Bissau. This is the last chance, things must change,” said Augusto Francisco da Fonseca Regala, a 55-year-old architect, raising an index finger stained with purple ink to confirm he had cast his ballot. “For two years, everything has been at a standstill. I hope this election will bring peace and stability so that we can get back to work and develop the country.”
The last attempt at an election, in 2012, was aborted when troops under army chief Antonio Indjai stormed the presidential palace days before a run-off was due to take place. Indjai released two doves as peace symbols after voting early on Sunday, but made no comment on the twice-delayed poll, which took place under pressure from donors and regional powers keen to see an end to decades of conflict and instability.
No elected president has completed a five-year term in the former Portuguese colony, which has become a major transit point for smugglers ferrying Latin American cocaine to Europe.