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Guinea Bissau Elections Come Under Scrutiny - 2004-04-01


A West African delegation is visiting Guinea Bissau Thursday in an attempt to help defuse tensions following mismanaged parliamentary elections earlier this week.

The delegation from the Economic Community of West African States is visiting Guinea-Bissau to help authorities there to cope with the aftermath of the poorly organized parliamentary elections.

The first elections since a bloodless military coup in September removed former president Kumba Yala from office, were marked by irregularities and confusion.

Mr. Yala's Social Renovation Party says it will not accept the outcome of the elections even if the results were in its favor. The party said the elections were biased and badly organized.

The National Election Commission extended Sunday's voting through Tuesday because many polling centers opened late or not at all when voting materials or election officials had not arrived.

The president of the commission, Higino Cardoso, blamed communication difficulties and lack of finances for the problems, but said the majority of the 600,000 registered voters cast their ballots on Sunday.

A hundred African and international organizations assisted with monitoring the elections, which were seen as a significant step towards democracy in the impoverished West African nation. The United Nations said Wednesday that the election was deemed free, fair and transparent, despite the poor organization.

But the vice president of the Social Renovation Party, Carlito Barai, accuses the election commission of bias against one political party, but did not name the party.

The military in Guinea Bissau has withheld the results of the poll for fear of public unrest, and gave no date for the release.

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