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Guinea-Bissau - 2018 Legislative Elections

Guinea-Bissau was poised to hold legislative elections on 18 November, after a period of political crisis. But on 15 November 2018 the electoral poll has been postponed by one month to the end of December. Since the last legislative polls in 2014, the country has had no less than seven prime ministers.

Guinea-Bissau's National Elections Commission (CNE) on 07 September 2018 called for the legislative elections scheduled for 18 November to be postponed, saying that it was impossible to complete voter registration by the legal deadline. The difficulties in the preparations for the legislative elections included disagreements voiced by some political actors against the 30-day timeframe set by the Government for voter registration and delays in arrival of biometric kits.

The causes of the recurrent political crises in the include the collapse of State institutions following independence as well as long-standing fragilities and malaise. Those are exacerbated today by the impacts of drug trafficking and transnational organized crime. The resulting climate of every man for himself led to the formation of political entities that only prey on Guinea-Bissaus meagre national income. Political battles around State income are especially prominent in the country due to the loss of regulatory mechanisms or oversight rules, the collapse of the principle of State organization and other structural failures. The Constitution has become a set of laws based on political compromises more than 30 years ago, and has remained unchanged in some of its most important aspects related to power sharing. For those reasons, Guinea-Bissau requires an urgent return to regulation, which will help stimulate more growth and result in fewer political parties attempting to prey on State institutions. The mediation efforts by ECOWAS produed the Bissau six point road map, and the Conakry agreement which resulted from this mediation effort provided the framework for the way forward. Guinea Bissaus stakeholders agreed on consensus on the choice of a Prime Minister who has the confidence of the President of the Republic. The Prime Minister should be in office until the 2018 legislative elections.

An inclusive dialogue among political leaders, civil society and religious communities of Guinea-Bissau was convened by Alpha Conde, President of Guinea and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Mediator for Guinea-Bissau, on 11-14 October 2016, in Conakry, Guinea. The Members of the UN Security Council welcomed this initiative which is part of the implementation of the six-point ECOWAS road map to end the political crisis in Guinea-Bissau, agreed by political leaders on 10 September 2016, in Bissau. Council members also expressed their support to the consensus reached on the process for the nomination of a new Prime Minister and for the formation of an inclusive Government in accordance the agreement and encouraged President Jos Mrio Vaz of Guinea-Bissau to proceed to the nomination of the consensual Prime Minister as soon as possible.

The signed agreement was aimed at forming a Consensus Government, the return of the fifteen MPs expelled from the PAIGC, the appropriateness and the appointment of a prime minister of confidence of the President, but who had the minimum consensus among the parties.

Political rivals in Guinea-Bissau agreed 14 October 2016 that Prime Minister Baciro Dja can stay on until 2018. A delegation from west Africa's ECOWAS regional bloc demanded on 06 November 2016 that Vaz name a new prime minister and deal with the dissenting deputies with the aim of resuming parliament's normal functions.

President Vaz dissolved the government on 21 November 2016 in an attempt to solve a political succession crisis that had paralysed the tiny west African state. The president said he was dismissing Dja's administration to follow through on an agreement reached between both sides in neighbouring Guinea last month, with a view to ending the crisis. "Putting into action the Conakry accord means the government resigning," Vaz told gathered journalists in the capital, Bissau.

"This agreement did not provide for a unanimous choice of prime minister but one by consensus, and consensus has not been reached, forcing me as head of state and guardian of the constitution to take my responsibilities," the president said. This would involve "dismissing the government and naming a new prime minister who will be charged with forming an inclusive government to pull the country out of this crisis", he added.

President Vaz said that negotiations with 15 dissenting lawmakers had not succeeded, adding that without them the Conakry accord could not be fully implemented. Talks mediated by Guinean President Alpha Conde had envisaged naming a new prime minister, putting together an "inclusive" government and reintegrating the lawmakers into the PAIGC.

The UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS) was working to take forward a partnership initiative with the UN Country Team [UNCT], the World Bank, and other interested bilateral and multilateral partners to effectively strengthen local resilience and promote peace in Guinea-Bissau, in line with relevant the Security Council resolution on a more integrated political, security and developmental approach to sustaining peace.

On 5 January 2017, the Government dismissed all regional governors as well as the Mayor of Bissau, and appointed new officials to various institutions. On 20 January 2017, the decision to rotate security personnel at the National Assembly had prompted swift condemnation as illegal by the Permanent Commission of the National Assembly. On 8 February, the Bureau of the National Assembly had rejected a request by the Prosecutor General for the lifting of parliamentary immunity for the President of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Caboe Verde (PAIGC). Only the nine members of the Commission from the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cabo Verde (PAIGC) participated in the vote, while the remaining six members, from the Party for Social Renewal (PRS), abstained. On 13 February, the African Union Peace and Security Council, convening in Addis Ababa, expressed concern about the deteriorating situation in Guinea-Bissau and progress in implementing the Conakry Agreement.

Thousands of protesters in Guinea Bissau's capital on 25 March 2017 demanded President Jose Mario Vaz step down to resolve the political crisis that had paralysed the country. Public anger was growing at the failure of regionally-mediated talks to resolve the deep rivalries within the political elite. Such street protests are relatively rare in a country where instability has typically taken the form of military coups.

On 28 March 2017, the National Electoral Commission officially released the final report on the 2014 legislative and presidential elections in Guinea -Bissau. The event was preceded by a seminar on outstanding challenges ahead of the upcoming elections. During the seminar, the Executive Secretary of the Commission, Idrissa Djal, informed participants of the intention of the Commission to draft relevant draft laws to submit to the National Assembly.

He also stressed the urgency of updating the voters register and the mapping of electoral constituencies, with a view to ensuring the smooth and timely conduct of legislative and local elections. Participants discussed the pros and cons of holding legislative and local elections separately or simultaneously. While some expressed preference for combined elections in the interest of time and cost, others favored separate ballots, observing that civic education efforts would be required ahead of the local elections. There was a sense of fatigue existing within international partners of Guinea-Bissau, triggered by the long-standing instability in the country. The responsibility for ending the crisis was in the hands of the national political actors. The Government was focusing on the 2018 elections at the expense of efforts to alleviate poverty and to provide support for basic services to the people. The people of Guinea-Bissau are suffering the negative impacts of the political instability due to lack of basic public services, particularly in the health and education sector, and the overall socio-economic situation of the country.

The impasse at the National Assembly and the consequent non-approval of the Governments program and State budget have further polarized positions in the country. Despite various initiatives aimed at genuine dialogue to resolve the institutional crisis, there had been no sign of a breakthrough.

A United Nations electoral needs-assessment mission to Guinea-Bissau was undertaken from 25 April to 2 May, pursuant to a request by the Prime Minister for technical and financial assistance to update the constituency delimitation and the voters register ahead of the legislative and local elections. The members of the mission, who held consultations with representatives of the countrys electoral management bodies and a wide range of national and international stakeholders, concluded that delays in the implementation of the Conakry Agreement had negatively affected efforts to advance dialogue and review the legal framework ahead of the legislative and presidential elections in 2018 and 2019.

On 13 September 2017 the UN Security Council called on the Guinea-Bissau leadership to implement the Conakry Agreement, including by appointing a consensus Prime Minister. The President of the Security Council made the statement at the 8045th meeting of the Security Council. The Security Council takes note of the briefing of 24 August 2017 on The situation in Guinea-Bissau of the Special Representative, Modibo Ibrahima Tour, and of the reports of the Presidents of the Sanctions Committee 2048 and of the Guinea-Bissau configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission following their recent visits to Guinea-Bissau, the statement reads.

The President of the Security Council said: The Security Council expresses its deep concern about the unresolved political impasse in Guinea-Bissau due to the inability of its political leaders to reach a lasting and consensual solution, as illustrated by the failure of the National Assembly to hold plenary sessions since January 2016, and by the failure of four consecutive governments to adopt their programme of work and national budget.

Furthermore, the Security Council expressed concern about the negative effects of the political crisis on the civilian population in Guinea-Bissau and urges all political actors to put the interests of the people of Guinea-Bissau above all other consideration and, in this regard, calls upon Bissau-Guinean political leaders, including the President, the Speaker of Parliament and the heads of political parties, to abide by their commitment to bring political stability to Guinea-Bissau by engaging in genuine dialogue, including on the constitutional review, finding common ground for a swift resolution of the political crisis, and refraining from all rhetoric and acts likely to undermine peace and national cohesion.

The mandate of the National Assembly ended in May 2018, and legislative elections are to be organised in the same year. These legislative elections could clarify the political game with the emergence of a parliamentary majority and the formation of a legitimate government. In reality, holding an election without the current political crisis having been resolved is likely to further divide an already polarised political class and create conditions conducive to the contestations of its results.

The president of the National Electoral Commission (CNE) of Guinea-Bissau, Jos Pedro Samb, on 03 July 2018 warned the government and the international community against any postponement of the legislative elections scheduled for this year.Samb, who was speaking in Bissau at a seminar of the Women and Youth Platform for Electoral Participation and Observation, complained about the delay in the release of funds for voter registration.

The holding of timely and credible elections is of paramount importance at this juncture, Jos Viegas Filho, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau Bissau (UNIOGBIS) said 30 August 2018. Citing an overall calm situation in the West African nation which has been experiencing political upheaval for several years he said the countrys authorities and political actors are currently focused on preparations for the legislative elections scheduled for 18 November. While key provisions of the countrys 2016 Conakry Agreement have been met, a national dialogue towards the adoption of a stability pact is yet to be held, he said.

Mauro Vieira (Brazil), speaking in his capacity as Chair of the Guinea-Bissau Configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, described tangible progress in implementing the Conakry Agreement and returning Guinea-Bissaus political life to normal. Recent important developments include the appointment of a consensual Prime Minister, the formation of an inclusive Government, the approval of a Government programme and the national budget, and the reopening of the National Assembly. He also outlined several core challenges still facing the country, including the limited time available to organize the November elections and update voter registration lists, the lack of proper coordination between and among Government entities and other partners, and an urgent need for cash to close the funding gap for voter registration efforts.

Jos Viegas Filho said the countrys political and security situation has been calm since his arrival in Bissau. Authorities and political actors are focused on preparations for the legislative elections scheduled for 18 November, and he actively uses his good offices with national and international partners to support the full implementation of the 2016 Conakry Agreement on the Implementation of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Road Map for the Resolution of the Political Crisis in Guinea-Bissau. Outlining his priorities, including the engagement of national stakeholders in the electoral process, he said he has been meeting regularly with the President and the Prime Minister to underscore the importance of respecting existing legal frameworks as well as the electoral calendar.

The holding of timely and credible elections is of paramount importance at this juncture, he said. Outlining several roadblocks that continue to pose challenges to that goal, he described disagreements voiced by some political parties regarding the 30-day time frame for voter registration.





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