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Voters in Guinea-Bissau Prepare for Second Round of Presidential Election

Voters in Guinea-Bissau head to the polls Sunday for the second round of a presidential election to replace long-time leader Joao Bernardo Vieira, who was killed by mutinous troops five months ago.

Candidates in Guinea-Bissau wrapped-up their campaigning Friday with closing rallies in the capital. Saturday is a day of reflection before Sunday's vote to restore constitutional leadership following President Vieira's assassination.

The ruling-party's Malam Bacai Sanha won last month's first round of voting with nearly 40 percent of ballots cast. The former interim president and chair of the national assembly is expected to gain the support of most of those who voted for independent candidate Henrique Rosa in the first round.

Rosa won more than 24 percent of the vote but only the top two vote-getters move on to the second round.

Sanha's ruling African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde controls more than two-thirds of the seats in parliament but his support within the party is thought to be somewhat soft as he only narrowly edged out current interim president Raimundo Pereira for the party's nomination.

Sanha is running against opposition leader Kumba Yala who won the 2000 contest between the two men.

Yala may have trouble building on the 29 percent of the vote he won last month because his presidency is best remembered for the arrest of political opponents 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 2003 coup.

Having elections in one of the world's poorest countries is not the problem. Electoral observers from the European Union say last month's vote was "well organized, peaceful, free and transparent."

In a country with a history of army mutinies and coups, 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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