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Observers say Guinea-Bissau Vote Met International Standards


Electoral observers from the European Union say Sunday's vote in Guinea-Bissau met international standards for democratic elections. It was a vote to replace long-time leader Joao Bernardo Vieira, who was killed by mutinous troops five months ago.

The European Union says Guinea-Bissau second round of presidential voting was transparent, inclusive, and well-administered.

"It was orderly. It was disciplined. There was no violence," said Johan Van Hecke, who led the EU observer team. "The election was well-organized, even better than during the first round."

Van Hecke also observed Guinea-Bissau's 2005 presidential election, last year's legislative election, and last month's first-round of presidential balloting.

"This electoral commission has really made a lot of progress and managed to handle the elections in a very professional and impartial way," he said.

The European Union estimates voter turn out Sunday was about 60 percent. Provisional results are expected Wednesday.

Ruling-party candidate Malam Bacai Sanha won the first round of voting with nearly 40 percent of ballots cast and was expected to gain the support of most of those who voted for independent candidate Henrique Rosa in the first round.

Opposition candidate Kumba Yala won a 2000 run-off against Sanha, but Yala's presidency is best remembered for the arrest of political opponents and financial mismanagement which resulted in civil servants not being paid for nine months.

The EU report criticized Yala for what it said were "persistent, serious, inflammatory accusations without evidence" and criticized Sanha for the open use of state resources to benefit his campaign.

"We deplore that one candidate went very far in accusing the other without proving anything. That could have seriously affected the campaign," he said. "On the other hand, we also deplore that the other candidate went very far using state resources for electoral purposes."

The European Union says candidates using the media for personal attacks did not contribute to a commitment toward national reconciliation. Van Hecke says it was unfortunate that both Sanha and Yala refused to hold a public debate.

"The voters would have been better informed on the program of both candidates. The program was not an issue," he said. "It was about other things, accusations and whatever, not really about what they have in mind regarding the future of their country."

Regional diplomats say the challenge for the new president will be forcing Bissau's military to respect civilian leadership and keep out of politics.


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