- Despite an unsuccessful attack the presidential palace in Bissau one week before the second round of the presidential elections, Sunday's poll in Guinea-Bissau was peaceful and well organised. Unrest is attributed to the failed candidate, ex-President Kumba Yala. The results will be made public tomorrow or Wednesday.
Guinea-Bissau arranged its second round of the presidential elections yesterday, registering a day of peaceful voting and an environment of confidence. A free, transparent and peaceful presidential poll is seen as crucial for the troubled nation to return on a path of political and economic stability and progress.
Malam Bacai Sanha, the official candidate of the ruling African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC) stood against former military ruler João Bernardo "Nino" Vieira in the second round. Ex-Dictator Vieira also is a former leader of the PAIGC and came second in the first round of the poll.
The first round and its aftermath was made dramatic by ex-President Yala, who was the official candidate of the opposition Social Renovation Party (PRS) despite him being banned from politics according to the transitional constitution. Mr Yala during the campaign claimed still to be Guinea-Bissau's legal Head of State, despite the popular military coup that toppled him in September 2003.
After it was known that Mr Yala had come third in the first poll round, the PRS leader claimed the elections had been rigged. His claims however were promptly denied by the many international election observers, saying the poll had been free, fair and transparent. Mr Yala however maintains the poll was rigged - a theory supported by his unpopular standing among Guinea-Bissau's international partners and the PRS's large support in the recent legislative elections.
The quality of the Bissau-Guinean polls nevertheless seems relatively guaranteed by an unusual factor. Incumbent Interim President Henrique Rosa - a businessman independent from party politics and installed by a broad-based coalition after the military coup - has not been a candidate at the polls. Mr Rosa has sincerely sought to re-establish stability in Guinea-Bissau and invested his credibility in a fair poll.
After coming to terms with his defeat in the first round, Mr Yala threw his support behind ex-Dictator Vieira. Mr Sanha, who was Mr Yala's main opponent in the 1999 elections, until the last moment had hoped to win the ex-President's support, but the personal differences between the two men turned out to be too strong. It however remains very unsure whether those voting for Mr Yala in the first round will follow his recommendation, as most votes for Mr Yala were ethnically motivated.
According to local reports from Guinea-Bissau, there were no major incidents during the poll exercise. Observers however noted a far lower turnout than during the first poll round, where an estimated 87 percent of voters had participated. This, according to observers, could indicate that many of Mr Yala's followers did not bother to take part in the second poll round, thus increasing the chances of Mr Sanha, the official PAIGC candidate.
The National Electoral Commission (CNE) today announced that the election had taken place peacefully and orderly. CNE leader Malam Mane told the press in Bissau that the provisional result would probably be announced tomorrow or on Wednesday.
There had been fears of a violent election day after an incident on 16 July, when a group of armed men unsuccessfully tried to attack the presidential palace and Interior Ministry of Guinea-Bissau. One policeman died and two were injured in the attack, according to police sources in Bissau.
Interior Minister Mumine Embalo last week accused the followers of ex-President Yala to have organised the attack to create further insecurity. The attack had been carried out by a group of soldiers paid by an unnamed member of the PRS, which observers understood was a close ally of Mr Yala. Neither the PRS politician nor Mr Yala have so far been detained in relation with the attack.
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