Mon, Nov 25, 2019 - Page 4 News List

Guinea Bissauans go to the polls to elect president

Reuters, BISSAU

A box containing voting material is pictured on Saturday at a voting station in Bissau, Guinea-Bissau.

Photo: AFP

Guinea-Bissau yesterday held a presidential election that voters hope will bring change to the coup-prone nation after weeks of political chaos that sparked violent protests and deadlocked parliament.

Guinea-Bissauan President Jose Mario Vaz, 61, is seeking re-election for a second term, and he remains popular among cashew nut farmers in the interior after raising prices for the nuts — the tiny West African country’s biggest export earner.

He faces stiff opposition following a first five-year term marred by political infighting, regular high-level sackings and corruption that came to a head in the run-up to yesterday’s election.

While no reliable opinion polls have been published, political analysts say the front-runner is former Guinea-Bissauan prime minister Domingos Simoes Pereira, 56, a modernizer with a relaxed style whose promise to bolster health and education have made him popular with younger voters in the capital, Bissau.

Preliminary results are expected on Thursday. If there is no outright winner, a second round between the top two candidates will take place on Dec. 29.

“Guinea-Bissau has faced five years of political and institutional crises,” Pereira said, adding that the country needs “a president who is able to create an atmosphere conducive to the restoration of peace and stability.”

Guinea=Bissau has suffered nine coups or attempted coups since independence from Portugal in 1974. If Vaz completes his term, he will be the first president to do so.

There have been seven prime ministers since Vaz took over in 2014. He fired then-prime minister Aristides Gomes on Oct. 29 and appointed a successor, but Gomes refused to step down.

For about 10 days the country had two prime ministers, until Vaz backed down.

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