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Guinea Bissau Opposition, Gov't Negotiate Election Results - 2004-04-04

Results from last week's elections in Guinea Bissau have yet to be officially released as negotiations between political parties and the interim government continue.

Members of former president Kumba Yala's Social Renovation Party have insisted they will not accept the results of the parliamentary elections. They say irregularities on the ballots and bias have marred the voting process in the impoverished west African nation.

These were the first elections since a bloodless military coup toppled Mr. Yala last September. Voting began one-week ago, but a lack of communication and the absence of voting materials caused many polling centers to open late or not at all.

Although the National Election Commission said the majority of the 600,000 registered voters cast their ballots on Sunday a week ago, the vote continued through Tuesday due to the problems in organizing.

The elections were monitored by international observers who deemed the process fair and transparent despite the organizational problems. The results, first scheduled to be announced Wednesday, were withheld again on Saturday as discussions continued with the current ruling military council and the political parties. The military council has delayed the release of the polls over fears it could lead to unrest.

Many of the political parties have conceded defeat. But the leader of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde, Carlos Gomes Junior, claimed victory for his party on Thursday.

He said his party, which was responsible for fighting against Portuguese colonial rule and gained independence for the country in 1973, would create a national unity government to lead the nation back to constitutional rule.

But the delays in announcing the results have increased fears that the country could plunge back into the sort of instability that led to civil war six years ago.

A delegation from the Economic Community of West African States visited Guinea Bissau and issued a statement on Friday urging authorities to announce the results to allow the country to move forward peacefully in rebuilding politically and economically.

But talks continued late Saturday and no new date was given for announcing the results.