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Guinea Bissau Election Turnout Low

Voter turnout was low Sunday in Guinea-Bissau's election to replace slain President Joao Bernardo Vieira.

The West African country's electoral commission has not released a final turnout number but members of the commission describe it as weak.

They attribute the low turnout to the events surrounding the president's assassination.

Mutinous soldiers killed Mr. Vieira on March 2, just hours after a bomb blast killed the country's army chief, a rival of the president.Results of Guinea Bissau's highly contested presidential election are expected to begin trickling in.

Peaceful Poll

Eleven candidates participated in Sunday's vote. Both local and international observers described the election as peaceful and credible.

Observers say it's not yet clear who's ahead.

"It's not expected that any of the candidates will win an outright majority of the vote in this first round. That would necessitate a second round, which would put the two leading vote getters together," said Scott Stearns, VOA's West Africa bureau chief.

Stearns said it had been expected that Sunday's vote would be hotly contested between the ruling party candidate Malam Bacai Sanha and opposition member Koumba Yala. The men last faced off against each other in a national poll nine years ago.

"Perhaps Henrique Rossa, the independent presidential candidate…has an outside chance that he could get through to probably the second position and go through the second round," Stearns said.

Looking to Broaden Support

It's likely contestants in the next round will seek support from some of the smaller parties and their candidates.

"As in any election, when there is a second round, the top two candidates look for alliances from the third candidate. Some of the candidates who probably knew that they wouldn't finish in the top one or two certainly campaigned hard to say if they came up with five, six seven percent of the vote that could be a dealmaker," Stearns said.

Stearns said international observers had high marks for the way the polls were organized.

"There was high praise for the organization of the vote," he said. "Ballot papers were distributed in this election earlier than they ever had been."

Some political observers say the winner of the election faces the daunting task of pulling the country from failure and a much needed security forces reform.