Two ex-prime min­is­ters vie for Guinea-Bis­sau

Antelope Valley Press - - Second Front - By VAGNER BAR­BOSA As­so­ci­ated Press

BIS­SAU, Guinea-Bis­sau — Two for­mer prime min­is­ters of Guinea-Bis­sau faced a runoff pres­i­den­tial elec­tion Sun­day after the in­cum­bent failed to reach the sec­ond round in the tu­mul­tuous West African coun­try once de­scribed by the United Na­tions as a narco-state.

Pres­i­dent Jose Mario Vaz, in power since 2014, has vowed to re­spect the re­sults in a rare ges­ture of po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity. Vaz is the first demo­crat­i­cally elected pres­i­dent to com­plete a full term with­out be­ing de­posed or as­sas­si­nated since the coun­try’s in­de­pen­dence from Por­tu­gal in 1974.

Linica Cor­reia, 29, said she cast her bal­lot for front-run­ner Domin­gos Si­moes Pereira, who fin­ished with 40% of the first-round vote and has since been en­dorsed by six of the 10 elim­i­nated can­di­dates.

“The Guinean peo­ple have al­ready suf­fered enough,” she said. “I hope that the next pres­i­dent rec­og­nizes this suf­fer­ing and works to trans­form the coun­try by giving back peace and sta­bil­ity to the peo­ple.”

While there has not been a power grab in Guinea-Bis­sau since 2012, the coun­try has had seven prime min­is­ters ap­pointed since Au­gust 2015. There was enough con­cern ahead of the Nov. 24 first-round vote that the re­gional bloc ECOWAS said it had a mil­i­tary force on standby to “re-es­tab­lish or­der” in the event of a coup.

The lead-up to the elec­tion was bumpy: Vaz fired his prime min­is­ter and Cab­i­net a month be­fore the Novem­ber vote, spark­ing out­cry. The ousted prime min­is­ter, Aris­tide Gomes, re­fused to step aside and his des­ig­nated re­place­ment swiftly re­signed as re­gional pres­sure mounted.

Pereira, the front-run­ner, has a long his­tory of feud­ing with the pres­i­dent: Vaz fired him as prime min­is­ter in 2015 and re­fused ear­lier this year to choose him for the post.

Pereira has cast himself as the can­di­date who can cre­ate the eco­nomic con­di­tions that would al­low for de­vel­op­ment in Guinea-Bis­sau, one of the world’s poor­est coun­tries.

An­other for­mer prime min­is­ter, Umaro Sis­soco Em­balo, re­ceived just over 27% of the first-round vote but has drawn sup­port from four of the elim­i­nated can­di­dates, in­clud­ing out­go­ing pres­i­dent Vaz.

Guinea-Bis­sau, a na­tion of around 1.5 mil­lion peo­ple, has long been be­set by cor­rup­tion and drug traf­fick­ing. In the 2000s, it be­came known as a tran­sit point for co­caine be­tween Latin Amer­ica and Europe as traf­fick­ers prof­ited from cor­rup­tion and weak law en­force­ment.

The drug trade has be­come less prom­i­nent with in­creas­ing en­force­ment. In Septem­ber, the gov­ern­ment seized more than 2 tons of co­caine in its largest seizure yet, ac­cord­ing to the United Na­tions Of­fice on Drugs and Crime. Ten peo­ple were ar­rested, in­clud­ing three Colom­bian na­tion­als.

AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File

In this Sept. 27, 2018, file photo, Guinea-Bis­sau Pres­i­dent Jose Mario Vaz addresses the 73rd ses­sion of the United Na­tions General As­sem­bly at the United Na­tions head­quar­ters.

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