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Guinea-Bissau Hopes for Democratic Future as Elections Near


In Guinea-Bissau, voters are hoping Sunday's runoff presidential elections will bring stability to the West African nation, which has seen numerous coups and coup attempts.

Voter turnout is expected to be high in Guinea-Bissau, where many people see the runoff presidential election as an opportunity to restore stability and full democracy to the tiny, turbulent West African nation.

Voters are choosing between former military strongman Joao Bernardo Nino Vieira and ruling-party candidate Malam Bacai Sanha, who placed first in the first round.

Voters say they are looking forward to installing a new president, after being governed by a transitional government since a bloodless coup in 2003.

"In this country, we have a lot of problems," explained one voter. " And we want somebody who is capable, somebody who is going to take this country out of all of its trouble. We need a leadership. This country has a lot of problems, because we do not have a leadership for many years. We are still struggling."

"I think that the next president will do more to improve our life in Guinea-Bissau," another voter said. "To have better conditions."

Guinea Bissau has been plagued by coups and chaos since independence from Portugal in 1974.

In a 1980 military coup, Mr. Vieira, who is running as an independent, took power after fighting for independence from Portugal in the country's first multiparty election. He was ousted after 19 years as president, and eventually sought asylum in Portugal. He returned recently to Guinea-Bissau to run for president.

Mr. Sanha has been serving as interim president since Kumba Yala, elected in 2000, was deposed in a 2003 bloodless coup.

Mr. Yala's term as president was characterized by economic mismanagement. He was eliminated in the first round of elections last month.

Macarai Baria, head of a civil society group monitoring the elections, says the election will help move Guinea-Bissau toward a more democratic process. "No matter who wins, we just want a president to be in office, so that we can move from this confusing situation to begin again to improve our reputation internationally," she said.

Final results are not expected until early next week.

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