Bissau-Guineans skeptical of presidential elections

Rui Landim, a political analyst based in Guinea-Bissau, reports on the country’s first round of presidential elections. Overall, Bissau-Guineans are skeptical and worried about the election process, due to a number of factors outlined below:

The challenges of the vote

First of all, we should note that since the advent of democracy in Guinea-Bisseu in the mid-90s, no democratically elected president has managed to complete his five-year mandate. This observation is also valid for the governments.
After the unexpected death of President Malam Bacai Sanha, on January 9th, the country had to organize an early presidential election to ensure constitutional continuity.

Bissau-Guineans were expected this election to consolidate peace, stability and above all a national harmony. Wishful thinking!

A climate of social and political tensions

The candidature of the current Prime Minister, Carlos Gomes Junior, who is also the chairman of the ruling party, the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde, has stemmed a number of passionate debates and has created a certain malaise within the political class and even among senior officers of the Army.

The election campaign took place in a tense climate, since the forces are conducting an unequal battle. The Prime Minister-Candidate has colossal resources that his opponents have denounced as “illegal use of public resources,” such as the use of administration’s cars and the use of the money of the Treasury (to buy votes) to finance his campaign. It’s deja-vu!

A vote without enthusiasm

In the same way that the campaign has not attracted the enthusiasm of voters (which can be demonstrated by the low participation at the meetings of the candidates) the vote has not met the challenge of mobilizing.

As for the organization of elections, there is nothing to criticize — the polls opened in the whole country at the exact time, and all election materials were ready. Unlike previous elections, we have not seen long lines of voters at polling stations. Voters arrived little by little. Polling stations, whose closure was scheduled at 5 p.m., waited in vain for the voters coming up to 6 p.m. Voters have disregarded, what made this election a non-event without high stakes which, perhaps, is also due to vague and disconnected messages of the candidates.

We have to note that no a single incident during the election is to be registered.

However during the vote, a leading candidate denounced “massive fraud concocted by supporters of the government candidate” and added that he may not recognize the election results.

A bad omen for the second round

Preliminary official results announced the Prime Minister-Candidate as the winner. The five main competitors have jointly announced that they rejected the results. In addition, the candidate Kumba Yala, who qualified for the second round, indicated that he did not intend to participate in the second round because of “massive fraud establishment during these elections.” All other candidates feel the same. Tensions are therefore mounted a notch.

The Bissau-Guineans are skeptical and worried about the outcome of the election process.

Rui Correia Landim is the General Director of Bissau-Guinea National Institute for the Development of Education and the National Coordinator of EFA