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Funding Questions Cloud Prospects for Guinea-Bissau Vote

The Prime Minister of Cape Verde says Guinea-Bissau can not afford to hold elections within the constitutionally mandated 60 days following the assassination of President Joao Bernardo Vieira. Scott Stearns reports, regional diplomats say that vote must be held and there will be the money to pay for it.

Nearly one month after President Vieira's death, Cape Verde Prime Minister Jose Maria Neves says there is not enough time or money to hold new elections as required by Guinea Bissau's constitution.

National Assembly Speaker Raimundo Pereira was named interim leader March 3rd with the mandate of organizing elections within 60 days.

But Prime Minister Neves told a meeting of Lusophone leaders in Lisbon that neither the logistical nor financial conditions exist in Guinea Bissau to meet that deadline. He says the priority now should be extending Mr. Pereira's term to allow for elections either in June, before the rainy season, or in November after the rains have stopped.

Regional diplomats say the vote should go ahead as planned. Mohamed Ibn Chambas is Executive Secretary of the Economic Community of West African States. He says foreign donors, including the United Nations and European Union, understand well the need for fresh elections on schedule.

"Lack of resources will not be the reason why the elections will not be held. We have assured the government of that. And this is something that we can definitely deliver on because we are impressed with the constitutional succession that has taken place so far, and we want to encourage Guinea Bissau to stay on this track, and the way that we can demonstrate this encouragement is to provide the resources that they need," he said.

Mr. Perreira's interim presidency followed the assassination of President Vieria and the murder of army chief Batista Tagme Na Waie, the latest violent change of power in a country that has seen a series of army mutinies and coups since independence from Portugal in 1974.

Chambas says reforming Guinea Bissau's security forces is crucial to breaking this cycle of instability.

"At this point, after the very tragic events of the assassination of the chief of defense staff and the president of this country, everybody has been jolted into the point of, 'No. This is unacceptable. Let us do something about the perennial instability in this country. Let us now begin to implement security sector reform,'" Chambas said.

Professor Fafali Kudawo says the struggle between political and military legitimacy in Guinea Bissau is rooted in a sense of ownership by soldiers who fought Portuguese colonialism.

"The historic legitimacy drawn from that independence war is considered superior to a political legitimacy gained through a ballot," Kudawo said.

He says the long-running power struggle between President Vieira and General Waie was part of a "chaotic curse" of a small circle of former freedom fighters struggling for power.

"Personal problems come to invade the public sphere and most of the time people resolve person problems through state power," Kudawo said.

Kudawo says the challenge is breaking out of that cycle with a new government more focused on social development than personal gain.