Guinea-Bissau holds legislative elections amid political deadlock

  • World
  • Sunday, 04 Jun 2023

FILE PHOTO: Guinea Bissau President Umaro Sissoco Embalo speaks at the Peace Forum in Paris, France November 11, 2022. Christophe Ena/Pool via REUTERS

BISSAU (Reuters) - Guinea-Bissau goes to the polls on Sunday in local elections as voters seek stability more than a year after President Umaro Sissoco Embalo dissolved parliament over accusations of corruption.

The West African country of nearly 2 million people has seen frequent political turmoil, with at least 10 coups or attempted coups since it gained independence from Portugal in 1974.

Sparring for seats in Sunday's polls are more than 20 political parties and coalitions, including the former ruling PAIGC party and its rival MADEM G15.

Given the fragmented playing field, analysts and politicians doubt that a clear majority will emerge.

"There will be no winner with an absolute majority in these elections. It is impossible," said Prime Minister Nuno Gomes Nabiam. "No party is ready to govern Guinea-Bissau alone."

Under the current political system, the majority party or coalition appoints the government but the president has the power to dismiss it in certain circumstances. That has led to political deadlock and infighting in the past.

The country's scattered Atlantic islands and mangrove mazes are a draw for tourists but also cocaine traffickers en route from South America to Europe.

The economy often finds itself hostage to the volatile price of cashew nuts, the main income source for over two-thirds of households.

Political discord is frequent. Disputed elections in 2019 resulted in a brief period when two presidents and two prime ministers claimed to hold power.

The latest coup attempt was in February last year when gunmen stormed a government compound where Embalo was holding a cabinet meeting. Embalo, who held on to power, linked the incident to the country's booming drug trade.

The former army general then threw the country into further chaos in May 2022 when he sacked the government, helping delay local elections by months.

(Writing by Edward McAllister, Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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