Sunday, July 26, 2009

Guinea-Bissau Votes in Run-off Election

Sunday, July 26, 2009
13:37 Mecca time, 10:37 GMT

Guinea-Bissau votes in runoff

The election is seen as a measure of national commitment to democracy and reconciliation

People in the coup-prone West African nation of Guinea-Bissau are voting in a presidential runoff between two former heads of state.

Some 2,700 polling stations nationwide opened at 7 am (0700 GMT) on Sunday to help 700,000 voters to cast ballots.

Two former presidents, Malam Bacai Sanha and Kumba Yala, won the biggest share of the vote in the first round of elections on June 28.

Sanha won 39.59 per cent of the first-round ballots, a 10-point advantage over Yala.

The runoff round was originally to have been held on August 2 but was brought forward to encourage a higher turnout as the later date could have interfered with harvest work in this predominantly rural country.

Sidi Mankale, the electoral official in charge of one polling station, said: "We began at 7 am and it's about the same turnout as the first round."

In the Chao Pepel district of Bissau, voters were scarce, but Ankouan Lopez, an electoral official said: "There aren't many voters because people are going to church first before coming to vote."


The vote was triggered by the killing of Joao Bernardo Vieira, Guinea-Bissau's long-time president, by soldiers on March 2, in an apparent revenge attack following the assassination of army chief General Batista Tagme Na Waie in a bomb attack.

In June, the army killed two senior political figures in what they claimed was an operation to foil a coup plot.

The murder of Vieira, who ruled Guinea-Bissau for much of the past 25 years, came about a decade after the military ousted him during a previous term as president.

Yala and Sanha have already faced each other in a second-round runoff for Guinea-Bissau's presidency in 2000, when Yala emerged victorious.

Sanha, 62, the candidate for the ruling African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC), served as interim president from June 1999 to May 2000.

Yala, 56, who is running as head of the Social Renewal Party, was forced out by the army in 2003.

Both rounds of the election have been financed entirely by the international community at a cost of 5.1 m euros ($7.2 m).

The national electoral commission (CNE) said about 150 international observers are on the ground for Sunday's vote and nearly 4,900 soldiers, police and paramilitary deployed to ensure security.

Source: Agencies

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