Long lines formed outside polling stations in Guinea-Bissau on Sunday for a presidential runoff vote intended to restore constitutional order in a country known for coups and unrest. The vote pits Jose Mario Vaz, whose party won a parliamentary majority in April’s first round, against Nuno Gomes Nabiam, who is known for having close ties to military leaders. More than 80 percent of eligible voters took part in the first round, a statistic observers say indicates the country is eager to move past its instability and begin rebuilding the economy with the help of international donors. The large crowds on Sunday at polling stations in the capital, Bissau, suggested a similarly healthy turnout for the second round.
Articles about voting issues in the Republic of Guinea-Bissau.
Jose Mario Vaz, Guinea-Bissau’s former finance minister, will face Nuno Gomes Nabiam, a candidate seen closest to the army, in a May 18 presidential run-off due to complete the country’s return to civilian rule. The presidential and parliamentary vote is meant to offer the nation a fresh start after decades of instability since independence from Portugal. Its last vote in 2012 was abandoned after the military seized power between rounds of voting. “Guinea-Bissau citizens have given a strong signal to the political class in coming out in huge numbers to exercise their civic rights,” Augusto Mendes head of the election commission said on Wednesday, referring to a turnout of over 80 percent. Vaz, candidate of the dominant party African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC), secured 40.99 percent of the votes in the first round, according to election commission figures.
Observers from the West African regional bloc ECOWAS on Monday said Guinea-Bissau’s weekend election was free and fair, and called on international donors to restart cooperation suspended in the wake of a 2012 coup. Bissau-Guineans flocked to the polls in large numbers on Sunday to vote in long-delayed legislative and presidential polls meant to bring stability to the former Portuguese colony after years of putsches and political infighting. No elected president has completed a five-year term in Guinea-Bissau, which has become a major transit point for smugglers ferrying Latin American cocaine to Europe. “The election was conducted according to international standards and the election was peaceful, free, fair and transparent,” the ECOWAS observer mission said in a statement.
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.
Guinea Bissau holds presidential and legislative elections on April 13 in a bid to help restore democracy two years after a coup that thwarted a previous vote and triggered an economic slide in the former Portuguese colony. As many as 775,500 voters out of a population of 1.6 million will cast ballots in an election that was delayed twice, according to the United Nations Integrated Peace-Building Office in Guinea Bissau. There are 13 presidential candidates, while 15 parties are vying for 102 seats in parliament. Former Finance Minister Jose Mario Vaz is considered the frontrunner in the presidential vote, according to Bjorn van Wees, Africa analyst at the London-based Economist Intelligence Unit. Vaz is the candidate for Partido Africano da Independencia da Guine e Cabo Verde, or PAIGC, which fought a guerrilla war against the Portuguese and took power at independence in 1974.
The United Nations panel dealing with peacebuilding efforts in Guinea-Bissau today welcomed the successful preparations for the country’s upcoming legislative and presidential elections and called on all stakeholders to cooperate in ensuring that the polls are free and fair. The elections, which have been postponed several times, most recently from 16 March to 13 April, is seen as a crucial step on the path to restoring constitutional order in the West African nation, which is recovering from an April 2012 coup. “With the voter registration successfully completed, political campaign[ing] in full swing, and financial requirements timely made available by various international partners, it is expected that general elections will be held on 13 April,” said a statement issued by the Guinea-Bissau Configuration of the UN Peacebuilding Commission (PBC). “No further delay is justifiable.”
Guinea-Bissau said today it was postponing national elections which had been due to take place in nine days until March next year. “The presidential and parliamentary elections will be held on March 16, 2014,” the transitional regime said in a presidential decree, announcing that it would “immediately cancel the elections previously set for November 24, 2013”. The decree said the postponement was agreed by the transitional government, political parties and the electoral commission, but did not specify a reason for the decision. The polls were originally pencilled in for May but in January transitional president Manuel Serifo Nhamadjo said such a short time frame was “technically” impossible.
A senior United Nations envoy says major reforms are necessary in Guinea-Bissau for elections due in November to be seen as free and fair. Among the reforms are steps toward providing justice for recent high-profile political killings. Guinea-Bissau has suffered from chronic instability since obtaining independence from Portugal in 1974. Its most recent coup occurred last year, when the army took control of the country in the middle of an election cycle. Transitional authorities announced in June that presidential and legislative elections would be held on November 24. This week, the country received representatives from a host of international organizations, including the African Union, the West African regional bloc ECOWAS and the European Union. El-Ghassim Wane, the director of the African Union’s Peace and Security Council, says the international community is committed to seeing a successful vote.
West African leaders decided to send troops to coup-hit Mali and Guinea-Bissau to support their return to civilian rule and demanded coup leaders “return to barracks” in both countries. At an extraordinary summit in Ivory Coast, the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) also said the two countries must prepare for legislative and presidential elections within a year. Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara, current head of ECOWAS, pledged a firm response to the instability “to prevent our sub-region from giving into terrorism and transnational criminality”. “The safety of Europe and of the United States now starts in the Sahel and the Gulf of Guinea,” Ouattara said.
Guinea-Bissau’s junta has named a failed presidential candidate to govern the country for two years. The United Nations has condemned the move in West Africa’s narcotics hub. The naming of Manuel Serifo Nhamajo, the former speaker of parliament, to head an interim government was made jointly late Thursday by the military – whose coup last week preempted a presidential election runoff – and Guinea-Bissau’s main opposition, the Party for Social Renewal. Nhamajo’s nomination was immediately rejected by the ousted governing party, the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC). Its secretary general, Luis Olivares, described the appointment as “unconstitutional.”