- Ex-President and "troublemaker" Kumba Yala is out of Guinea-Bissau's presidential race, having come third among the candidates in the first poll round. The ruling party's candidate Malan Bacai Sanhá received most votes, but not enough to win in the first round. He will face ex-Dictator João Bernardo "Nino" Vieira in a run-off in July.
The National Election Commission (CNE) yesterday announced that Mr Sanhá and Mr Vieira had gathered most won in Sunday's presidential elections. Mr Sanhá earlier has served as interim leader in Guinea-Bissau, but lost the 2000 presidential elections to Mr Yala. He is now the official candidate of the PAIGC party, which holds a large majority in the Bissau parliament.
Within three weeks, Mr Sanhá will face ex-President Vieira in a run-off election, where the President of Guinea-Bissau for the next four years will be named. Mr Vieira ruled the Portuguese ex-colony as a military dictator turning democrat from 1980 to 1999, when he was toppled in a coup. He has since lived in exile in Portugal and run as an independent candidate with the support of several cadres from the PAIGC, which he earlier led.
According to the results read out by the CNE leader yesterday afternoon, Mr Sanhá won some 158,000 votes in the Sunday poll, representing about 35 percent of the total cast. Mr Vieira came second with 129,000 votes while Mr Yala came third with 111,000 votes. A further nine candidates had contested for the presidency. Voter turnout had been close to 80 percent, according to the CNE.
These results mean that ex-President Yala is out of the presidential race despite the good results he had achieved in the first preliminary results announced by the CNE on Tuesday. Mr Yala has been perceived as a troublemaker by the international community and many Bissau-Guineans. Popularly elected in 1999, he was toppled in a military coup in 2003 after having caused political and economic instability for year.
While initially banned from standing candidate due to the provisional constitution agreed to by all parties in Guinea-Bissau, Mr Yala surprisingly was elected the official candidate of the Social Renovation Party (PRS), the main opposition party. During the electoral campaign, he was noted for trying to mobilise the ethnic vote of the Balanta people - representing about 30 percent of the population - and trying to reclaim his presidency by occupying the presidential palace.
The Sunday polling had been well organised, orderly and peaceful, the 200 international election observers agreed. The polling exercise was further termed "free, fair and transparent" in a joint statement issued by the observer teams. International concern is now concentrated on the candidate's reactions to the CNE's announcement and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has urged all candidates "to accept the results."
Mr Yala and his PRS party yesterday however indicated they would not follow Mr Annan's advice. The party leader protested on behalf of Mr Yala, telling the press in Bissau that "these results are false." He claimed Mr Yala had come first. The ex-President already last week claimed the CNE was preparing to rig the elections in favour of the ruling party's candidate.
Mr Sanhá, on the other hand, yesterday warmly welcomed the results and reached out to Mr Yala's voters to pick him in the second poll round, which must be held between 17 and 24 July. It is however very uncertain how Mr Yala's voters will behave in that round as both available candidates are connected to the PAIGC; the main rival of the PRS.
Mr Vieiro had found most support in rural areas, whereas Mr Sanhá won almost all the urban votes in Guinea-Bissau. The ruling party candidate has become a symbol of new stability in the cities, while Mr Vieira remains a symbol of past stability in rural areas. Mr Yala mainly had achieved the votes of the Balanta people. Neither Mr Vieira nor Mr Sanhá is Balanta. Vieira belongs to the relatively important Papel people, while Mr Sanhá is from the small, coastal Beafada people.
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