Observers Hope for Stability after Elections in Guinea-Bissau
By Daniel Hollingsworth
November 17, 2008 | Printer Friendly
AFP reports that despite rampant poverty and increasing influence of drug cartels, parliamentary elections held in Guinea-Bissau on November 16 appear to have been completed smoothly, with high turnout and no reports of violence in the poverty-stricken country that “has been plagued by a series of bloody coups and uprisings.” While no definite timetable for the release of results has been identified, it is widely expected that the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC), the dominant party since the country’s independence from Portugal in 1974, will maintain its strength through the polls. However, a number of parties are expected to compete for a significant number of seats in the 100-seat parliament and a possible place in a coalition government. BBC reports that “observers say [PAIGC] will face stiff competition from the Republican Party for Independence and Development (PRID), which was formed ahead of the vote by former Prime Minister Aristides Gomes, an ally of President Joao Bernardo Vieira. The Social Renewal Party (PRS) and the Development, Democracy and Citizenship Party (PADEC) are also expected to do well.”
Guinea-Bissau’s recent history has been characterized by civil war, multiple coups and coup attempts, and pervasive political instability. President Vieira, a leader of the independence struggle who ruled the country for 19 years until the civil war in 1999, won as an independent candidate in 2005 after being ousted from the PAIGC. After the PAIGC-led coalition government collapsed earlier this year, Vieira had the chief of the Navy arrested under suspicion of planning a coup. The leader of the PRS, former President Kumba Yalla, was himself ousted by a coup in 2003.
According to Reuters, the provision of basic needs was on the minds of voters turning out for Guinea-Bissau’s fourth multiparty elections since the dismantling of the one-party state in 1991. Guinea-Bissau is currently ranked 175 of 177 in the UN Development Program’s Human Development Index and “is in the grips of a cholera epidemic that has killed well over 200 people in recent months.” Education is also a dominant issue, as only 37 percent of the population has attended school, and a voter told AFP that “the schools are closed and the teachers are not getting paid.”
Deutsche Welle writes that in addition to the economic plight of the country, the international community has voiced special concern over the booming drug trade and a hope that stability through elections could stifle this trafficking. “Narcotics experts are warning that the country has turned into a ‘narco-state’ as drug smugglers take advantage of weak governance and policing to effectively run the country,” and international donors, including the European Union, the United Nations, and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), provided most of the required funding to hold the vote.
AFP: Guinea Bissau vote goes smooth amid hopes for stability
BBC News: Guinea-Bissau vote goes smoothly
Reuters: Guinea-Bissau votes in search for stability
Deutsche Welle: Europe Hopes Guinea Bissau Elections Will Quell Cocaine Trade