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Guinea-Bissau's Government Loses Vote of Confidence


Guinea-Bissau's government has lost a vote of confidence in the parliament and has three days to hand over power to a coalition body under the terms of the constitution. Government officials say they will appeal the vote. Kari Barber reports from VOA's West Africa bureau in Dakar that one civil society leader says political jockeying may be a healthy sign for Guinea-Bissau, where past disputes have often involved military action and resulted in coups and uprisings.

President Joao Bernardo Vieira is faced with the decision whether to dismiss the government of Prime Minister Aristides Gomes, dismiss the parliament or seek a compromise.

Mr. Gomes is a close ally of President Vieira, who appointed him to power in 2005.

Many in the majority parties, which make up all but a few seats in the parliament, have opposed Mr. Gomes leadership since the start and say they are seeking stability by voting to remove him and his administration.

President Vieira's leadership has also been weakened by struggles with parliament.

Civil society leader Macaria Barai says ineffective leadership has stalled the development of the impoverished nation, which suffers from poor infrastructure and civil services.

"Guinea-Bissau has a lack of leadership. If we do not have strong leadership within parties and movements, there will be a failure within a short period," said Barai. "We Bissau-Guineans have to start looking for good leadership to lead the country. If we do not have good leadership, we will continue having dissolving assemblies and dismissing governments."

But Barai says the current turmoil is part of the growth process for the young democracy.

"It is a process. It is a new democracy in Guinea Bissau," continued Barai. "We are in a learning process, and in a learning process we are subject to failures and out of our failures we can analyze our position to make a good move."

Chris Melville, with London-based analysis group Control Risks, says Guinea Bissau's dependency on international aid will force President Vieira to seek a compromise with members of the majority parties.

"Guinea-Bissau's external partners will already be engaging Vieira in an effort to soften the hardline he has taken," he said. "Given the government's desperate need for external financial assistance, that advice is likely to be heeded and a compromise solution probably will be found. In likelihood it will just paper over the cracks."

Melville says the current political problems are not likely to result in the kind of military coups and uprisings that have plagued the nation in the past.

"At the present time, a breakdown of public order or military intervention seems a long way away," added Melville. "But so does the prospect of serious democratic reform and economic recovery."

The secretary of the national assembly has complained of voting irregularities in the no-confidence vote and says the government will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

President Vieira was overthrown in a coup in the 1999 civil war after ruling the country for 19 years. He returned from exile in 2005 to win the presidency.

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