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Guinea-Bissau - 2019 Presidential Elections

Guinea-Bissau was poised to hold presidential elections in April 2019, after a period of political crisis. Since the last legislative polls in 2014, the country has had no less than seven prime ministers. Four years of political paralysis left their mark on Guinea-Bissau. Many schools and universities have been closed for years, the judicial system does not function, the public health sector is in a dire state. The government lacks money for the most basic needs.

Guinea-Bissau has been plagued by military coups and instability since its post-colonial independence from Portugal in 1974. It has been a major hub for cocaine smuggling and suffered nine coups since 1980. The small Portuguese-speaking country had been in the throes of a power struggle since August 2015, when Vaz sacked then prime minister Domingos Simoes Pereira, leader of the ruling African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC). Since then, two factions of the ruling PAIGC have failed to resolve their differences over Pereira's successor with some lawmakers refusing to work with him. Votes on new laws or budgetary proposals have remained on ice. Parliament was paralyzed, and Guinea-Bissau did not have a functioning government.

There have been some encouraging signs of progress towards the resolution of the political and institutional impasse in Guinea -Bissau. Consensus on a new inclusive Government has been achieved, plenary sessions of the National Assembly have resumed, a state budget has been adopted, and the date for holding legislative elections has been set for 18 November 2018. The appointment of Aristides Gomes as Prime Minister and the possibility that Jos Mario Vaz will be the first President to complete his term, for the first time since the independence of Guinea-Bissau in 1974, are both encouraging steps towards political stability. However, the country continues to face many challenges, including the need to clarify the constitutional separation of powers, fight the illegal trafficking of narcotics and undertake institutional reforms of the defence, security and justice sectors.

After several years of long-term investment in the stability of Guinea-Bissau, it is time to consolidate and reap the dividends of our concerted efforts. It is vital that we accompany this process to its completion, Modibo Ibrahim Tour, the Secretary-Generals Special Representative in Guinea-Bissau told the UN Security Council 14 February 2018. Tour stressed the importance for the Council to continue to reaffirm the centrality of the Conakry Agreement, reiterating its support to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in its mediation efforts.

According to the UN Department of Political Affairs (DPA), Guinea-Bissau has been plagued by chronic political instability since gaining independence in 1974. The DPA provides support and oversight to the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office for Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), a special political mission first established in 1999 following a two-year civil war in the country. Since mid-2016, the Mission is headed by Mr.Tour. The main priorities of UNIOGBIS are to support efforts to consolidate constitutional order, further political dialogue and national reconciliation, encourage security sector reform, and promote respect for human rights and the rule of law.

On political developments, Mr.Tour said President Jose Mario Vaz dismissed former Prime Minister Umaro Sissoco Embal and replaced him with Artur Silva. The absence of a functioning and stable Government for more than three years has limited the ability of UNIOGBIS to effectively and sustainably implement some of its mandated tasks, said Mr.Tour.

The Conakry Agreement of 14 October 2016 provides for, among other things, the appointment of a consensual Prime Minister. Guinea-Bissau, in an official decree announced 26 April 2018 a new government comprising 18 ministers and eight secretaries of state.It is led by the new Prime Minister, Aristides Gomes, who doubles as Economy and Finance Minister. The new cabinets main mission was to organize parliamentary elections, and to revive the Cashew Campaign, which had been on the rocks.

Until the completion of the electoral cycle in 2019, Guinea-Bissau remains a country that requires a dedicated UN presence to prevent a further deterioration in the political and security situation at the national level and to avoid any negative spill-over to its neighbours and creating a fertile environment for trafficking to thrive, he noted. It will be important for the United Nations to remain engaged in peacebuilding efforts in the country while supporting ECOWAS intervention to resolve the political crisis for at least one more year, he said.

Lastly, throughout the year, the presence of ECOWAS Mission in Guinea Bissau had consistently acted as a deterrent to unauthorized military action and a stabilizing factor in the country, he said, calling on the Council and international donors to support the continued presence of ECOMIB through to the holding of a presidential election in 2019, including by advocating for the renewal of its mandate and the provision of the financial support needed to maintain its deployment.

On 10 March 2019, a new parliament was elected in Guinea-Bissau. Twenty-one parties battled for 102 seats. Guineans hoped the poll would mark the end of a long period of political crisis in the West African country. Of the 21 parties contesting the election, the PAIGC, PRS and a new formation, the Movement for a Democratic Alternative (Madem G15), were considered to have the best chances. The PRS and Madem G15 have surprisingly large financial and logistical assets for this election. No one knows where this money has suddenly come from. There is speculation that it may come from dubious sources, possibly abroad. These individual parties had more money at their disposal than the state.

The PAIGC, which won the last parliamentary elections in 2014, is generally expected to garner the highest number of votes. The party has the most money, is organized in a relatively professional manner and has the aura of a successful liberation movement against colonialism. But the party also has a big problem. The three main players in the political crisis Vaz, Pereira and Kassama are all members of the PAIGC.

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