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Guinea-Bissau Presidential Vote Moves to Second Round


Guinea-Bissau's presidential election is heading toward a second round as no candidate won more than 50 percent of the ballots in last Sunday's voting.

Ruling-party candidate Malam Bacai Sanha came out on top in the first round of voting with more than 39 percent of ballots cast.

Guinea-Bissau's electoral commission said former president Kumba Yala finished second with more than 29 percent of the vote.

The two men will face off in a second round of balloting August 2.

Sunday's vote saw 11 candidates running to succeed long-time President Joao Bernardo Vieira who was killed by mutinous troops in March, hours after his chief political rival died in a bomb blast.

Electoral observers from the European Union said the vote was "well organized, peaceful, free and transparent" with no irregularities or major incidents noted. But turnout was low, something the EU team suggested reflected a climate of "fear and intimidation."

Presidential candidate Baciro Dabo was killed by state security forces last month when they said he resisted arrest for being a coup plotter. Dabo's family said he was shot in his bed.

Electing civilian presidents is not traditionally the problem in Guinea-Bissau. It is the history of army mutinies and coups against those presidents that has led to years of instability made worse by Latin American drug gangs.

The ruling African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde controls more than two-thirds of the seats in parliament and campaigned aggressively for former interim president Sanha.

Political observers believe he is also likely to win the endorsement of independent candidate Henrique Rosa, who finished third with just over 24 percent of the vote.

The August 2 runoff is a rematch of Guinea-Bissau's 2000 election, which was won by Yala. His presidency brought the arrest of opposition figures and financial mismanagement which resulted in civil servants not being paid for nine months.

Though he is from the country's ethnic majority which has long controlled the military, Yala was toppled in a coup in 2003.

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