Tuesday 20 February 2018
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Guinea-Bissau's presidential race: Jose Mario Vaz won an overwhelming 62 percent of the vote!

Guinea-Bissau's presidential race: Jose Mario Vaz won an overwhelming 62 percent of the vote!

The front-runner in Guinea-Bissau's presidential race, Jose Mario Vaz, won the decisive run-off on Tuesday, according to preliminary results released by election officials.

The candidate of the west African nation's largest party won an overwhelming 62 percent of the vote against independent rival Nuno Gomes Nabiam, the election commission said.

If confirmed, the former finance minister will be named the country's first elected leader since a military coup in 2012 upended an already fragile country in the grip of powerful cocaine cartels and plagued by intermittent political violence.

Vaz, 57, of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde, won the first round on April 13 but failed to get an outright majority, pitting him against Nabiam in a head-to-head second round on Sunday.

Already mired in poverty, the fragile nation of 1.6 million has been stagnating for two years under the rule of an army-backed transitional government, with the economy anaemic and endemic corruption fuelled by rampant drug trafficking.

The election was seen as a key test of its progress after the 2012 coup. But turnout in the run-off, at 78 percent of an electorate of 800,000 people, was some way short of the 89 percent participation rate in the first round.

The two candidates have 48 hours to lay complaints before the supreme court before it confirms the result.

Vaz's team and the Guinea-Bissau Human Rights League complained on election day of his supporters being attacked in Bissau and the central town of Bafata, around 150 kilometres (90 miles) away.

"We are in a democracy. It is inexcusable that people use force to prevent other citizens exercising their civic duty," Vaz told reporters as he cast his ballot.

Nabiam's team had also reported irregularities, making vague references to an attempt at vote-buying on the eve of the run-off, but there was no immediate word on whether the 51-year-old intended to challenge the result.

The former Portuguese colony is the only west African nation to have achieved independence through military force and, since 1974, the army and state have been in constant, often deadly, competition.

Its people have suffered intermittent unrest since liberation, as well as a series of military coups attributed largely to the unprecedented bloating of the army after the war.

This has led to chronic instability and a dysfunctional state which, with its porous coastline and abundant islands, provided fertile ground for Latin American drug lords looking for a hub from which to ship their cocaine to Europe.

No elected president has ever finished his term in office in Guinea-Bissau.

The United States has charged 2012 coup leader Antonio Indjai with drug trafficking and seeking to sell arms to Colombian FARC rebels, although he has not been extradited and remains in Bissau.

The election was the first since Indjai agreed in May 2012 to hand power to a civilian transitional regime headed by President Manuel Serifo Nhamadjo.

With a 40.9 percent share of the first-round vote against Nabiam's 24.8 percent, father-of-three Vaz was always considered the establishment candidate.

He had vowed to pursue "ongoing dialogue" with the military if elected.

Nabiam, an engineer, campaigned as the "unifying" choice, capable of bringing stability to his country.

by Allen Yero Embalo

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