Bissau Guineans voted to fill Guinea-Bissau’s national legislature in a much-anticipated election on Sunday, more than a year after the West African country’s president dissolved parliament.
According to the Center for Democracy and Development, an African human rights organization, nearly a million voters were registered to elect more than 100 MPs from six parties with active seats in the National People’s Assembly.
Guinea-Bissau is a small nation that gained independence from Portugal nearly five decades ago. Since then, the country has experienced ongoing political unrest, including several coups.
President Umaro Sissoco Embalo, a former army general, took office after being declared the winner of a runoff election in December 2019. He survived an attempted coup in February 2022 when attackers armed with machine guns and AK-47s attacked the government palace.
Analysts say Embalo has cracked down on civil liberties since taking office, while government agencies have lost significant independence. He dissolved parliament in May 2022 and postponed general elections scheduled for the following December.
Lucia Bird Ruiz Benitez de Lugo, director of the West Africa Observatory of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, said Embalo has consolidated his power since his controversial inauguration in February 2020.
“These elections are crucial for how much support the ruling party retains in parliament,” she said. “They will decide how isolated or different the president, who has strained ties with the powerful military, will be in the remaining 18 months of his presidency.”
Polling stations opened early Sunday and more than 3,500 polling stations are expected across the country and diaspora. This is the seventh general election in the country since the introduction of a multi-party system almost three decades ago.
Citizens hope this vote will help put the country on the right track.
“Given the situation the country is currently in, this is a crucial choice for the country. Everyone is witness to the difficulties experienced,” said voter Justino dos Santos Leguissimo.
Others were thankful that they could vote at all.
“Today is a very special day for all Guineans as we have finally come back to exercise our civil rights,” said Eunice Mafalda Lopes Queita Esteves, who cast her vote.
The results of Sunday’s election were expected to be contested after the results are announced in the coming days.
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