Guinea-Bissau

Guinea-Bissau: Cape Verde president to mediate in poll deadlock

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BISSAU, 4 Aug 2005 (IRIN) - Cape Verdian President Pedro Pires flew into Guinea-Bissau on Thursday to try to end a dispute surrounding last month's presidential elections, for which definitive results have still not been published.

Provisional results, released last week, handed victory to Joao Bernardo "Nino" Vieira, the former military ruler of Guinea-Bissau, with Malam Bacai Sanha, the candidate of the ruling African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC) trailing him by four percentage points.

The National Electoral Commission was bound by law to issue the final results not more than 10 days after the election, which was held on 24 July. But that deadline passed on Wednesday without anything being published, leaving people in a tense Guinea-Bissau wondering what is going on.

It is into this deadlock that the current president of the African Union, Nigerian leader Olusegun Obasanjo, has dispatched Pires.

"I will do my best to carry out this mission which was given to me by President Obasanjo," Pires told reporters after touching down in the capital, Bissau, on Thursday.

"It is my duty to do all I can to find a solution. In Guinea-Bissau there are a lot of patriotic people and I am sure that they will do everything to save their country," the Cape Verdian leader added.

An official programme distributed by Guinea-Bissau's Foreign Affairs Ministry showed Pires would spend four days in the country. He is scheduled to meet the interim president Henrique Rosa, Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior, parliamentarians and diplomats as well as representatives from the military and civil society.

This year's presidential election was supposed to set the seal on Guinea-Bissau's return to constitutional government after a civil war in 1998-1999 that was followed by several years of political instability and adminstrative chaos.

Eight teams of international observers, including an 80-strong mission from the European Union, issued a joint statement the day after the poll saying the second round had been "free, fair and transparent," just like the first.

But the PAIGC cried fraud and has demanded a recount in certain areas of the small West African country - in the capital Bissau, Biombo district immediately to the west of the city and Bafata district, 130 km to the east.

On Tuesday the head of the electoral commission, Malam Mane, told reporters that there had been some voting irregularities in certain polling stations, but said no decision had been taken on whether there would be a recount.

Bacai Sanha's supporters have been gathering most days outside PAIGC party headquarters in protest, convinced that their candidate won and is now being cheated out of power.

"We are ready to die," said Hadja Mansata Toure. "Nino will never take power again here," she told IRIN on Thursday.

Bacai Sanha captured the most ballots during the first round of voting in June but Vieira subsequently was endorsed by former president Kumba Yala, who took third place.

Vieira began life as a guerrilla commander in the PAIGC when it was still a liberation movement fighting Portuguese colonial rule and has been closely associated with the party for most of his political career.

After independence in 1974 Vieira became a general in the army. He seized power in a 1980 coup and assumed the leadership of the PAIGC, through which he ruled Guinea-Bissau until his overthrow 19 years later.

Almost two weeks after the poll, the situation in the capital is still tense, although fears that the prime minister and his PAIGC government would resign should Vieira win have abated.

At a meeting with diplomats in Bissau on Thursday, prime minister Gomes Junior, backed down on his threat.

"This government ... will stay as on as a source of political stability in Guinea-Bissau," Gomes Junior told diplomats, according to a statement issued by his office.

[ENDS]

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