Guinea-Bissau Prepares for Second Round of Presidential Election


Voters in Guinea Bissau go to the polls Sunday for the second round of presidential elections to choose a successor to the West African nation's long-time leader Joao Bernardo Vieira. President Vieira was killed by mutinous troops five months ago.

The country's voters narrowed the field of candidates in the first round of balloting last month.

Electoral observers say that poll came off without incident as security forces kept rival supporters apart in a campaign to replace President Vieira.

The president's killing in March came within hours of his chief political rival dying in a bomb blast. It is the latest violent change of power in a country with a history of army mutinies and coups.

The ruling-party's Malam Bacai Sanha led the first round with nearly 40 percent of the vote. The former interim president and chair of the national assembly is expected to gain the majority of those who voted for independent candidate Henrique Rosa. He was disqualified. Only those who finish in the top to advance to the presidential run-off.

Former philosophy professor and opposition leader Kumba Yala won the 2000 election. But the former president might have trouble building on the 30 percent of the vote he won last month. During his previous time in office Yala drew criticism for his poor handling of the economy.

Life expectancy here is just 46. The start of the rainy season is expected to bring yet another cholera outbreak.

Having elections in one of the world's poorest countries is not the problem. Regional diplomats say the new president's challenge will be in forcing Bissau's military to respect civilian leadership and keep out of politics.

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