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Guinea-Bissau opposition candidate wins presidential vote

January 1, 2020

Ex-general and former PM Embalo has won a runoff presidential election in the turbulent West African country. But a dispute from the ruling party candidate could throw the country into extensive political chaos.

Guinea-Bissau President-elect Umaro Sissoco Embalo
Image: AFP/Seyllou

Opposition figure Umaro Sissoco Embalo has won presidential elections in the volatile West African state of Guinea-Bissau, the electoral commission announced Wednesday.

The ex-army general and former prime minister won a December 29 runoff with 53.55% of the vote against 46.45% for another former prime minister, Domingos Simoes Pereira.

Read moreWho will be Guinea-Bissau's president in the new year?

Pereira, the ruling PAIGC party's candidate, said the vote was marked by "irregularities, annulment and manipulation, which [constitutes] electoral fraud" and that he would file a complaint to the Supreme Court.

Cashew juice against poverty

History of coups, political instability 

The dispute may fuel more additional political chaos in the poverty-stricken country.

Since gaining independence from Portugal in 1974, Guinea-Bissau has experienced four coups as well as 16 attempted, plotted or alleged coups.

Incumbent President Jose Mario Vaz, who failed to secure enough votes in the first round of elections and backed Embalo in the runoff, is the first democratically elected president of the country not to be assassinated or ousted in a coup.

Since coming to power in 2012, his term has been stained by political battles with parliament under the country's semi-presidential political system. The country has had seven prime ministers appointed since August 2015, including Embalo, who served under Vaz from 2016 to 2018.

If Pereira's challenge fails, Embalo will face some of the same challenges of an unstable political system as his predecessor. Under the constitution, the majority party in parliament — now the PAIGC — appoints the prime minister but the president can dismiss the government.

Cocaine, cashews and corruption 

Previous bouts of political instability have hurt the economy, which depends on cashew nuts, the main income source for more than two-thirds of households.

Around 70% of Guinea-Bissau's 1.8 million people live on less than $1.90 (€1.69) a day.

The country also suffers from endemic graft, ranking 172nd out of 180 countries in Transparency International's 2018 corruption index.

Drug traffickers also exploit Guinea-Bissau's poverty, corruption and lack of rule of law to ship cocaine from South America to Europe.

Pulling Guinea Bissau out of poverty

cw/sms (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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