- Guinea-Bissau gears up for elections to be held on 28 June after President Joăo Bernardo "Nino" Vieira was shot dead on 2 March. Two ex-Presidents, Kumba Yala and Henrique Rosa, and the current interim leader have announced their candidacy.
Guinea-Bissau's interim President, Raimundo Pereira, who following the constitutional order took power temporarily in March, earlier in April issued a decree that fixed the presidential elections for 28 June. Since that, well-known candidates for the presidency are emerging.
Interim leader Pereira himself yesterday presented his intention of becoming the presidential candidate of the PAIGC party, which has held power in Guinea-Bissau most of the time since independence in 1975. PAIGC has the most forceful organisation among the country's political parties and a PAIGC candidate therefore always stands a good chance of winning.
However, Guinea-Bissau's traditional ruling party has received at least four other candidates for their presidential ticket. These include Territorial Administration Minister Carlos Gomes Júnior and Minister of State Council Baciro Dabó. Also Manuel Saturnino da Costa is seen as a strong candidate as he is close to PAIGC strongman and 2005 candidate Malam Bacai Sanha.
The country's main opposition party, the Party for Social Renewal (PRS) of Guinea-Bissau, on the other hand is set to choose its candidate today, and is set to go for ex-President Kumba Yala. Mr Yala has announced his candidacy, and was also the PRS's official candidate in 2005, when he lost to Mr Vieira.
Mr Yala, a philosophy professor now aged 56, was democratically elected President of Guinea-Bissau in 2000, following a period of political violence. His presidency however widely was seen as a failure, with the country slipping into economic and social chaos and donor nations withdrawing from Guinea-Bissau's aid dependent economy.
President Yala was toppled in a 2003 coup, which brought a popular but non-elected civilian interim authority into power. The transitional government was led by interim President Henrique Rosa, a consensus candidate initially uniting military leaders, position and opposition parties and civil society.
President Rosa led Guinea-Bissau to free and fair elections in 2005, where he did not stand candidate. In the upcoming June polls, however, he has announced his candidacy, leaning on his popularity at home and abroad following his progressive leadership. Mr Rosa says his aim will be to "move Guinea-Bissau into a true reconciliation process."
It is yet unclear whether Mr Rosa, a 63-year-old businessman, will head any of Guinea-Bissau's main political parties as their candidate, or whether he will present himself on an independent ticket. The latter option currently seems the most probable, and could be a repetition on Mr Vieira's 2005 election victory - also standing as an independent candidate.
The two most known candidates are ex-Presidents Yala and Rosa, with the PAIGC candidates being less established among the Bissau population. While Mr Yala has a strong core of very dedicated followers, he is however seen as radical by a large part of the population. Mr Rosa, on the other hand, has a weak apparatus to support him but is generally seen as an excellent statesman.
The 28 June elections were called on after President Vieira on 2 March was shot dead by so far unidentified soldiers, shortly after his long-term opponent, army chief Batista Tagme Na Wai, was murdered. Following the constitutional order, parliamentary speaker Raimundo Pereira was appointed interim President, with a running order of organising elections within two months.
While the polls should have been held within 2 May, ruling party, opposition, military and civil society leaders agreed with foreign observers that a postponement until 28 June was necessary to organise the campaigns and polls properly.
The elections are estimated to cost the impoverished country CFA francs 2.5 billion (euro 3.8 million), out of which the Bissau government holds it can only raise 10 percent. The European Union (EU) has already indicated it will assist the Bissau government with a budget of euro 1.5 million. Franco Nulli, EU delegate to Guinea-Bissau, urged other donors to contribute with at least another euro 1 million.
The impoverished and chronically unstable West African country has come increasingly to the attention of European governments as a key state necessary to stabilise. Guinea-Bissau is struggling to combat drug trafficking, human trafficking and other organised crime, taking advantage of its large and torn coastline and weak and corrupt state and security institutions. Drug cartels are suspected of being involved in several political murders in the country.
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