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Voting Underway in Guinea-Bissau


Voting is underway in Guinea-Bissau to choose a new president. It is a contest to succeed long-time leader Joao Bernardo Vieira, who was killed by mutinous troops four months ago.

An electoral official at the 12th of September elementary school in Bissau reads out a voter's identity card so poll watchers from the major political parties can make sure only registered voters are casting ballots.

Voters move away to the privacy of a white cardboard stand in the school's courtyard to mark their ballot before folding it in half and pushing it through the slot of a clear plastic ballot box sealed with numbered plastic ties.

Their finger is then dipped in ink to prevent multiple voting. Nearly half of this polling station's registered voters cast their ballots within the first few hours.

Rosa Da Silva says she voted because it is her right as a citizen of Guinea-Bissau.

Da Silva says she wants life to be better. There are many problems here, she says, and she wants a president who will bring peace and develop the country.

Guinea-Bissau is one of the world's poorest countries, with a history of army mutinies and coups. President Vieira's death in March came just hours after his chief political rival died in a bomb blast. A presidential candidate was killed by state security forces earlier this month when they say he resisted arrest for being an alleged coup plotter.

The Economic Community of West African States and the United Nations are calling for independent investigations into that violence. The U.N. Security Council Extending its mission in Guinea-Bissau through the end of the year Friday, urged civilian leaders to refrain from involving the military in politics.

There are 11 candidates in a vote that is being monitored by the ECOWAS alliance, the United Nations, the European Union, the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries, and the African Union.

Ruling-party candidate Malam Bacai Sanha and the main opposition candidate Kumba Yala have drawn the biggest crowds. Their main challenger is former interim president Henrique Rosa.

None of the men are expected to win more than half of the votes in Sunday's first round. So the two leading finishers will likely meet again in a run-off to restore constitutional order in Guinea-Bissau.


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