Guinea-Bissau presidential vote goes to run-off

The presidential election in Guinea-Bissau will go to a second round after Sunday’s vote failed to produce a clear winner, the electoral commission said on Thursday.

The West African country is hoping to end years of political turmoil and violence during which army factions fought and drug traffickers from Latin America established a power base.

Malam Bacai Sanha of the PAIGC, the biggest party in Parliament, polled 39,6% and former President Koumba Yala took 29,4% of the vote, the commission said.

These two candidates will contest the second round, a date for which has yet to be set.

“Malam Bacai Sanha and Koumba Yala have qualified for the second round,” commission president Desejado Lima da Costa said.

Voting was well organised in the main, the head of the European Union’s observer mission, Johan van Ecke, said.

“The vote took place in a calm and orderly fashion, and voters were able to exercise their right freely.”

Despite their clean bill of health, the EU observers said the voter turnout was low and suggested this was due to a climate of “fear and intimidation” in the wake of head of state Joao Bernardo Vieira’s murder and the subsequent killings of top politicians by the army when it claimed to have foiled a coup plot.

Turnout was 60%, the electoral commission said.

Vieira, who held power for 23 years, was assassinated by members of the army on March 2, apparently in revenge for a bomb attack that claimed the life of the army chief, General Batista Tagme Na Waie.

Presidential candidate and former minister Baciro Dabo was among those shot and another candidate pulled out of the race, saying he feared for his life.

Raimundo Pereira, the caretaker president in the former Portuguese colony, declared that the poll would be “an important step towards stability”.—Reuters, Sapa-AFP

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