- Sunday's presidential elections in troubled Guinea-Bissau were conducted in a peaceful and orderly way, seemingly with a very high voters turnout. Election observers had not noted any important irregularities. Now, Bissau-Guineans hope the situation will be equally peaceful when the winner is announced.
The national election commission has already started counting the many votes delivered yesterday. The counting process, which is also overseen by international election observers, is expected to take several days.
All over the country, large and peaceful queues had been observed as Bissau-Guineans were to elect their new President. There was therefore a general impression of a high turnout in the poll, which is described as the country's big opportunity to regain political and economic stability after years of turmoil.
The large participation and the peaceful atmosphere at the polling stations also reflected the desire of ordinary people in Guinea-Bissau to return to peace and stability. Citizens during the last weeks in unison told foreign observers that this had been their greatest desire for Sunday's election.
Also the international community has invested markedly in a successful poll in Guinea-Bissau. The Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had sent election observers. The UN, which maintains a peace-building mission in the country (UNOGBIS), has sent former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano to contribute to a peaceful transition to democracy.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan therefore today welcomed the peaceful conduct of presidential elections in Guinea-Bissau. Mr Annan however knows the potential for crises is not over and he called on all segments of society to refrain from any statement or action that could provoke tensions and urged all candidates to accept the results.
There is particular concern over one candidate, ex-President Kumba Yala, who almost caused the election campaign to derail as he claimed to be the rightful head of state and occupied the Bissau presidential palace. Initially the favourite to win Sunday's election, Mr Yala however seems to have lost many sympathisers to Malan Bacai Sanhá, the official candidate of the ruling PAIGC party.
Mr Yala has already claimed that the poll are being rigged in favour of Mr Sanhá, something the government, electoral commission and observers are rejecting. If the electoral commission proclaims Mr Sanhá as the winner of the poll, there are concerns that Mr Yala might again cause tensions in Guinea-Bissau.
If none of the candidates to the Bissau-Guinean presidency wins more than 50 percent of the votes deposited yesterday, a second election round is to be organised on 10 July. A second round is widely expected, as at least three candidates are believed to poll good results. These include Mr Sanhá, Mr Yala and ex-Dictator João Bernardo "Nino" Vieira, an independent candidate with large support within the PAIGC.
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