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Presidential Campaign Turns Fierce in Guinea-Bissau

The upcoming presidential election in Guinea-Bissau is being fiercely contested, with three candidates attracting large crowds at rallies throughout the country. One of them has gone from saying he is the country's rightful leader to alleging fraud is being prepared.

Supporters of deposed former elected leader Kumba Yala accuse others of mixing religion with politics.

Mr. Yala himself has been accused of using tribalism. After briefly occupying the presidential palace, the controversial leader of the Social Renewal Party has gone back to campaigning for the June 19 poll.

But he now alleges voter rolls are being doctored.

The party's secretary general, Artur Sanha, tells VOA that according to their own research there are more registered voters than population in certain areas. Meanwhile, in strongholds of Mr. Yala, he alleges names are being erased.

Election authorities have denied wrongdoing. They have also called for candidates not to incite unrest before, during or after the poll.

Mr. Yala soundly defeated the main party's candidate in 1999 elections, Malam Bacai Sanha, but was overthrown in a bloodless military coup amid corruption charges in 2003.

This time around Mr. Sanha, the candidate of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde, appears more popular.

His rallies have been marked by calls for stability with the party now in power. He has said he could win a majority on June 19, and avoid a run-off scheduled three weeks later.

But independent candidate, former military ruler Joao Bernardo "Nino" Vieira, is attracting the frustrated youth who once backed Mr. Yala.

In this rally, in a northern part of the capital Bissau, he said he was the one candidate who could provide water, electricity and roads.

Many voters interviewed said they wanted the election to mark a new beginning, after years of turmoil and poverty in the former Portuguese colony.

Another woman says she wants peace, stability and prosperity.