News / Africa

Tight Timeline as Guinea-Bissau Prepares April 13 Polls

Anne Look
— Campaigning is now underway in Guinea-Bissau ahead of April 13 presidential and parliamentary elections.  The country is trying to move on from two years of political crisis following an April 2012 military coup, but the organization of the poll remains a concern.  

It has been almost two years since Guinea-Bissau tried to hold an election.  In April 2012, a military coup disrupted that presidential race as it headed to a second round run-off.

This vote has since been pushed back three times.  The international community ramped up pressure in February to head off another possible postponement.  But there are still concerns of logistical problems ahead.

In the run-up to the poll, the electoral commission did a massive biometric voter registration campaign that authorities say covered 95 percent of voters.

Electoral commission spokesperson Catia Lopes told VOA technical preparations are on track but there are concerns for voting day.

Lopes said this time, there hasn't been much of an education campaign in the media about new voting procedures.  She said that could be problem since it is the first time Bissau-Guineans will vote with biometric voter cards.

International funds for organizing the poll were slow to come in over the past two years and the electoral timeline is tight.

On March 15, the country's High Court of Justice confirmed 13 presidential candidates for the election. That gave the country less than a month to have ballots printed.

A total of 15 parties are running for parliamentary seats.

Guinea-Bissau one of Africa's smallest, yet most unstable, countries. The political crisis dates back much further than 2012.  There have been repeated coups, mutinies and political assassinations since independence 40 years ago.  No elected president has ever finished his mandate.

Analysts warn that the military remains a destabilizing force.

There is no clear presidential frontrunner and political analysts say they expect this to go to a second round.

The two political heavyweights who were headed to the derailed 2012 run-off are not on the ballot this time. Both are controversial figures.

Former president Kumba Yala resigned from his party earlier this year.  Former prime minister Carlos Gomes Jr. is not running either, after his party, the PAIGC, did not choose him as its presidential candidate.

The PAIGC, the largest party in the country, instead put Jose Mario Vaz on the ticket.  Vaz is a former finance minister who also served as mayor of the capital, Bissau.

Lassana Cassama contributed to this report from Bissau.

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