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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Wednesday 29 June 2005

GUINEA-BISSAU: Second round of presidential election set for July 24

BISSAU, 29 Jun 2005 (IRIN) - The two leading contenders in Guinea-Bissau's presidential election, Malam Bacai Sanha and Joao Bernardo "Nino" Vieira, will take part in a second round run-off vote on 24 July, Malam Mane, the chairman of the National Electoral Commission, said on Wednesday.

The date was set after Kumba Yala, the third placed candidate in the first round of the election on 19 June, agreed on Monday to accept the result of the ballot.

Mane said the date of the second round would only be confirmed following the publication of the results of the first round of the election in the government's official gazette next week. But he and several other members of the National Electoral Commission assured reporters that the ballot would definitely take place on 24 July.

Bacai Sanha and Vieira are both veterans of the bush war against Portuguese colonial rule, which lasted from 1961 until the independence of this small West African country in 1974.

The two men fought alongside each other in the African Party for the Independence of Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC) liberation movement, which subsequently became the country's ruling party.

But while Vieira, 67, pursued a military career that led him to become an army general and eventually Guinea-Bissau's military ruler from 1980 to 1999, Bacai Sanha became a civilian politician after independence.

Now in his late 50s, Bacai Sanha served as speaker of parliament, and briefly as interim head of state after Vieira was deposed in the latter stages of Guinea-Bissau's 1998-1999 civil war.

Bacai Sanha is standing as the official presidential candidate of the PAIGC, which returned to power in legislative elections last year after spending five years in the political wilderness.

However, several influential PAIGC leaders have defected to support Vieira instead.

Bacai Sanha won 35.5 percent of the vote in the first round of the presidential election, putting him ahead of Vieira with just under 29 percent.

But political analysts said the ultimate winner would be the man who secured the backing of Yala and his powerful Balanta ethnic group, the biggest group comprising 30 percent of Guinea-Bissau's 1.3 million population.

Yala, who took 25 percent of the vote in the first round of the election, has yet to say who he will support in the run-off vote.

Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior said on Tuesday that generous donor support for the electoral process meant that his cash-strapped government had enough money to finance the 1.4 billion CFA franc (US $2.8 million) cost of holding the second round of the presidential election.

Gomes Junior said the government was also in a position to pay money owed to people who served as election officials in the previous presidential election in December 1999 and January 2000, and in the March 2004 parliamentary ballot.


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