Guinea-Bissau

Guinea-Bissau: Business as usual following Sunday's election

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BISSAU, 29 November 1999 (IRIN) - It was business as usual on the streets of Bissau on Monday following Sunday's legislative and presidential elections which were generally calm, although marred by the late opening of some polling stations and the postponement of voting in parts of the country.
The sole helicopter taking ballot papers and voting urns to the Bijagos Islands, just southwest of Bissau, broke down and did not arrive in the archipelago on Saturday, so voting there had to be postponed to Monday (29 November). Voting in parts of Tombali region in the south and in the Bissora sector of the northern region of Oio was also put off to Monday for similar reasons.

The late arrival of voting material caused delays in the opening of some polling stations in other parts of the country. This led to the only significant incident reported on Sunday, when irate electors blocked the main road next to their polling station in one of Bissau's 195 constituencies before being dispersed by the police. The ballots arrived later and people were able to vote, informed sources told IRIN.

Transport problems also caused delays in the collection of ballots from some polling stations after the vote.

The elections were the second multiparty polls since independence from Portugal in 1975. They were to have been held in March under an agreement in November 1998 between then president Nino Vieira and the Military Junta that eventually overthrew him on 7 May 1999, but were subsequently postponed to 28 November.

The overthrow led to the freezing of the bulk of a US $200-million aid package the international community had committed for Guinea-Bissau on 4-5 May 1999 in Geneva although the United Nations, the European Community and other donors provided financial and material support for the elections.

Part of this support went to the Comissao Nacional de Eleccioes (CNE) and the Instituto Nacional de Estatistica e Censos. Some of it was used to provide air time for each of the 12 presidential candidates to present their programmes to the population - 20 minutes per week for each candidate for three weeks.

In recent weeks, representatives of the international community made it clear that the disbursement of the remaining aid, some US $90 million of which was to have been provided this year, would depend on the holding of free and fair elections on 28 November.

[ENDS]

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Item: irin-english-2083

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