Guinea Bissau: Elections so far free and fair

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The European Union monitored elections in Guinea Bissau has been reported to be void of any rigging or violence so far. EU observers posted to 80 out of the 2,700 polling stations received no reports of incidents or complaints during the vote. The elections have come three months after President Vieira was killed by soldiers in an apparent revenge for the death of the head of the army. Guinea-Bissau has been plagued by coups since independence in 1974.

Only about 600,000 of the country’s 1.3 million residents are eligible to vote in the polls. There will be a second round of elections if there is no outright winner. The leading candidates of the elections are Malam Bacai Sanha of the ruling party, who served as interim president from 1999-2000, former President Kumba Yala, who was overthrown in a 2003 coup, and Henrique Rosa, who served as interim president from 2003-2005.

Guinea Bissau has been a destabilising force in West Africa for years. The region has seen enough conflict and is determined to ensure a smooth transition. In 2008, Brussels-based think-tank, the International Crisis Group, said fundamental changes to the way the country was run were required. The candidates have all promised to work for the peace and stability that has been illusive in Guinea Bissau.

In March, one of the presidential candidates and an ex-defense minister were killed by soldiers. The candidate was accused of plotting a coup. Independent presidential candidate Paulo Mendoca filed a complaint to the Supreme Court, arguing it would be illegal to go ahead with the polls as the constitution calls for a delay if any of the candidates dies. However Interim leader Raimundo Pereira decided to press ahead for the elections to be held after consulting the government and political parties.

The past presidents, including Mr. Vieira, have all relied on the army to stay in power and so whenever the military support has not been strong enough, a coup or an assasination has taken place. President Vieira was hacked to death with machetes on 2 March by soldiers who blamed him for a bomb which killed the army chief of staff hours earlier. However, no soldier has been prosecuted.

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