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Guinea-Bissau - Politics - Background

Following free and fair presidential elections, on August 10, 2005 Joao Bernardo Vieira was declared the winner of a July 24 presidential runoff election over Malam Bacai Sanha in an election judged by international observers to be free and fair. That concluded Guinea-Bissau's transition back to democratic rule.President Vieira was inaugurated on October 1, 2005. Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior refused to accept Vieira's victory, and on October 28, Vieira dismissed Gomes and his government. Five days later, he installed former PAIGC official Aristide Gomes as Prime Minister.

Throughout 2006, President Vieira struggled to maintain control over the National Assembly and the general operations of the government. In early March 2007, the three main political parties--the PAIGC, the PRS, and the PUSD--agreed to push for a "government of consensus" in the interests of parliamentary stability. On 12 March 2007, a 10-year national political stability pact and a Parliamentary and Government stability agreement were signed by the three largest political parties, the African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde and Guinea Bissau (PAIGC), the Social Renewal Party (PRS) and the United Social Democratic Party (PUSD). Under those agreements, PAIGC retained the post of Prime Minister and ministerial portfolios were divided as follows: 40 per cent each for PAIGC and PRS, 17 per cent for PUSD, and 3 per cent for other parties and civil society groups.

President Vieira refused to accept the decision, and on March 19 the National Popular Assembly passed a vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Aristide Gomes. The no confidence vote in the National Popular Assembly (ANP) on March 19 left President Vieira with three choices: to accept a new government headed by the Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC)) - the party that expelled him; dissolve the assembly, which would require new elections within 90 days; or ignore the vote and continue with the current government.

President Vieira was then faced with the decision of dissolving the government and calling for new elections or appointing a new prime minister. Prime Minister Gomes was an arrogant and ineffectual leader who had refused to meet with opposition parties, allowed corruption to spiral out of control, and caused major losses with his failed cashew export policies. Under his watch, the World Bank lost confidence in Guinea-Bissau for attempting to unethically award a lucrative contract for infrastructure improvement to a Nigerian firm. However, the vote also showed the determination of some factions of divided PAIGC and Party for Social Renewal (PRS) to get government jobs and probably a piece of the drug money. The factionalization of the PRS took on new dimensions since former president Kumba Yala won that party's leadership race.

Prime Minister Gomes resigned on March 29. In early April 2007, after much resistance, President Vieira accepted the appointment of Martinho Ndafa Cabi as the new Prime Minister. The no confidence vote had been purchased with drug money, with Defense Minister Helder Proenca as a possible replacement for the Prime Minister. In Bissau, Proenca was widely believed to be a drug kingpin. Like Vieira, Proenca was also expelled from the PAIGC, which according to the censure, would have the right to appoint the new Prime Minister.

The stability pact brought about the formation, in April 2007, of a new broad-based Government led by Prime Minister Martinho Dafa Cabi of PAIGC. In course of allocating the ministerial portfolios, PRS received less than 40 per cent and this created tensions among the members of the pact.

Since assuming power in April 2007, the Government began to restore political stability and increase international confidence, which had been adversely affected by the 1998-1999 armed conflict and the ongoing political uncertainty. The new Government implemented measures to address the current economic crisis and improve public management, including in the fight against corruption, and had been successful in encouraging donors, led by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to resume their support. It adopted a fiscal reform and stability package in May 2007.

In July 2007 President Joo Bernardo Vieira publicly advocated the joint holding in 2009 of the legislative elections scheduled for 2008 and the presidential elections scheduled for 2010, arguing the need to save costs. The head of the national electoral commission confirmed that Guinea-Bissau was not in a financial position to organize parliamentary elections as scheduled.

In February 2008, the PAIGC withdrew support of Prime Minister Martinho Ndafa Cabi, and the March legislative elections were postponed. By July, the PAIGC pulled out of the political "government of consensus" coalition days before the Supreme Court ruled that the extension of parliament's mandate was unconstitutional, thus triggering President Vieira to dissolve parliament and remove Prime Minister Cabi. President Vieira appointed Carlos Correia as new prime minister.

On November 16, 2008 Guinea-Bissau held successful legislative elections that were praised by the international community as well-organized and transparent. PAIGC won the majority of seats in the National Assembly. Carlos Gomes Junior was appointed prime minister. The new parliament has called for a fight against drug trafficking. This is especially important given the recent increase in news media reports examining Guinea-Bissau's role in the West African regional drug trade.

On March 1, 2009 Armed Forces General Batista Tagme Na Wai was killed in a bomb blast at the military headquarters. The following morning President Vieira was killed by a group of soldiers at the presidential palace. National Assembly Speaker Raimundo Pereira--the constitutionally-designated interim president--took the oath of office on March 3 during a special session of parliament. As a result of the June 28 presidential election and the July 26 runoff, former interim president Malam Bacai Sanha defeated former president Kumba Yala and assumed office on September 8, 2009. In concert with support from the international community, the United States contributed $300,000 toward these elections, which were judged to be free, fair, and without incident or notable tension.

On April 1, 2010, ex-Navy Chief of Staff Bubo Na Tchuto left the UN premises in Bissau, where he had sought refuge in late December 2009 after deserting the military and going into exile in The Gambia in 2008. He was accompanied on April 1 by troops loyal to Deputy Defense Chief of Staff Antonio Indjai, who then arrested and detained Defense Chief of Staff Jose Zamora Induta and Prime Minister Carlos Gomes. (The latter was released after vigorous public and international protests.) The United States condemned the kidnappings and violence, and called for release of those illegally detained and for a return to constitutional order.

On April 8, the United States listed Na Tchuto and his associate, Ibraima Papa Camara, as narcotics trafficking kingpins for the purposes of freezing their assets, banning their travel, and precluding Americans from doing business with them. These existing conditions, compounded by the Government of Guinea-Bissau's June 30 appointment of Indjai as the new chief of staff and the subsequent reappointment of Na Tchuto to his former position, led to decisions by the United States to suspend most military assistance and by the European Union to terminate by September 30, 2010, its mission for the reform of Guinea-Bissau's security forces. On May 6, 2011, Lucinda Ahukarie, chief of one of the countrys most credible law enforcement institutions, resigned over concern about the militarys threats to her agencys fight against narcotrafficking. On June 6, 2011, the National Assembly overwhelmingly adopted a law against female genital mutilation (FGM), which allowed penalties of up to 5 years in prison for perpetrators of FGM.

On December 26, 2011, a military power struggle and ostensible coup attempt resulted in an attack on Army/Armed Forces Chief of Staff Indjai by military troops and civilians loyal to Navy Chief Na Tchuto. The government and military subsequently arrested and detained Na Tchuto and his supporters.

After being hospitalized since November 2011 in Paris, President Sanha, who was known to have diabetes, died on January 9, 2012. By law, National Assembly Speaker Raimundo Pereira became acting president and arranged new elections, which were held March 18, 2012. Provisional results in a peaceful, open process indicate that Prime Minister Carlos Gomes, Jr. won 49 percent of the vote and the runner-up, former president Kumba Yala, received 23 percent. Since no candidate earned more than 50 percent, a second round will occur in April 2012. However, five candidates from the opposition alleged widespread fraud and pledged to challenge the results.

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