Guinea-Bissau votes seeking end to instability
Voters in Guinea-Bissau headed to the polls on Sunday for legislative elections called by a president pushing constitutional change after years of instability in the small west African state.
Having recently revealed a coup attempt in February, 2022, President Umaro Sissoco Embalo dissolved the national assembly in May after falling out with lawmakers as the country became mired in political paralysis.
In the central district of Bairro Militar in the capital Bissau, 30 voters were up early to queue in the shade of trees before casting their ballots after the seven am (0700 GMT) opening.
Security forces looked on as the electoral process got under way with some 600 soldiers on hand to ensure smooth progress.
“There’s usually trouble after the count. But this time I’m daring to hope there won’t be. May the best (candidate) win and may peace reign across the land,” said Fode Malam Faty, 55, and standing for the Party for Social Renewal (PRS) after casting his vote.
Guinea-Bissau, population two million, has faced chronic instability in the shape of repeated coups ever since independence from Portugal in 1974.
Some 200 international observers are on hand to monitor this year’s proceedings as the 884,000-strong electorate turn out for a single round vote based on proportional representation to elect 102 lawmakers.
Results are expected some 48 hours after the close of polls at five pm.
The changes Embalo intends to make are not clear. Critics accuse him of seeking to consolidate power following a disputed 2019 presidential election.
No fewer than 22 parties are in the mix, including Embalo’s Madem G15 and The African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) which between them dominate parliament.
“The next government needs to think about us and regularly pay our pensions. Not only are they derisory but we often wait for months before receiving them. I also am praying for stability,” ventured 75-year-old Bacary Djassi.
Economic concerns weigh heavily in one of the world’s least developed nations battered by the fallout of the Covid pandemic and also the war in Ukraine.
“Let’s hope the future prime minister finds solutions to the cost of living,” said Diarra Fati, 47.
“They educate us to be unemployed. There’s no work for thousands of young graduates,” complained 23-year-old student Teodoro Mendes, who demanded the formation of a government capable of innovation, providing job opportunities and listening to the concerns of young people.