A new first step for Guinea-Bissau

Closely monitored with concern by the international community, the legislative elections in Guinea-Bissau are scheduled for March 10 and represent the first step for the country to achieve governmental stability and overcome the cyclical crises that have desolated its population for the past decades.

Previously scheduled for November 2018, the elections were rescheduled for March 10 and there are already 24 political parties formally registered.  President José Mário Vaz, after confirming the new date, explained that the postponement occurred “due to reasons related to a political-institutional nature”

The equipment sent by the UN to help the electoral process (Photo: DW)

The country has been under UN sanctions since 2012 – 11 Guinean officials have undergone sanctions on the grounds they had been involved in changing the constitutional order –, the elections will be closely watched by the Security Council, which has already made recent visits to the country and intends to assure fair and transparent elections.

It is important the electoral process runs smoothly,otherwise there may be an accentuation of the crisis, creating an even worse environment in the country.

“The Security Council wishes Guinea-Bissau success, as in other elections it previously organized, so that political institutions can return to normality, consequently the institutional crisis can cease to exist and Guinea-Bissau goes beyond this page and can get off the agenda of the Security Council. And one day even contemplates, suspend, and permanently be free from the sanctions weighing down the country. All this will depend on what takes place in these forthcoming political occurrences”, declared Anatólio Ndong Mba, ambassador of Equatorial Guinea to the UN. This country leads the Organizational Sanction Committee over Guinea-Bissau.

According to Leila Maria Hernandez, a specialist on Contemporary African history and researcher in the History department at the University of São Paulo, Guinea-Bissau has suffered from a poorly conducted administrative change after the colonial period, that has affected the political status and brought about a great deal of governmental instability in the country, which became even more intense due to the country’s foreign debt.

“It is important the electoral process runs smoothly, otherwise there may be an accentuation of the crisis, creating an even worse environment in the country. For this reason, there is an international appeal so that this conflicting environment can be overcome, for the good of the country’s development. It is important to not only guarantee the electoral process, but it is also necessary to follow up the post-election scenario”, explains the researcher.

A cyclical crisis

Guinea’s population has suffered from the cyclical crisis and lack of confidence in its political representatives (Photo: Seylou/AFP/Getty Images)

The scenario of political instability in Guinea-Bissau, however, is not a recent phenomenon. The country has suffered from countless coups d’état since its independence, recognized in the 1970s. The country was already nearing a situation of starting a civil war at the end of the 1990s and in 2009 its president was then assassinated.

Although it got its independence from Portugal, led by the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde, these two Portuguese speaking countries are in distinct political situations, as the second one is enjoying a certain degree of political stability and is an attractive tourist destination.

“Cape Verde was able to create a better post-independence environment, the opposition was less divided and the administrative structure was not affected as much as Guinea’s. These different processes little by little are going to affect the other social situations”, contextualizes Leila Maria Hernandez.

The elections and the future

Besides the legislative election taking place in March, 2019 will also be the year that Guinea-Bissau will choose its new president. The date for that election has not yet been defined. Making sure that these two electoral processes take place without any major problems is the first step to the country can leave behind its recent crises and start to develop.

“Some concrete actions are necessary to show we are willing to turn over a new leaf. The role of the president is extremely important for creating that confidence. He must be the person who is going to sell the image of the country and recognize our problems because, in the Information Technology Era, there is not much to hide,” states the Guinean business leader, Paulo Gomes, who has participated in the previous presidential elections in the country and has shown his interest in also running again this year.

The business leader explains these previous occurrences did not help build up a good reputation for the country, as it is still suffering from being on the international drug traffic route, although the internal drug abuse is not a serious problem there.

Read here the exclusive interview with Paulo Gomes

In 2017, representatives from Guinea’s National Election Commission (CNE, in Portuguese) participated in a series of meetings at the Brazilian Superior Electoral Court (TSE, in Portuguese), precisely to establish an exchange of knowledge with the Brazilian Electoral Justice Department.

Guinea-Bissau’s delegation learning about the Brazilian electoral process (Photo: TSE)

At that time, the financial and administrative director of the CNE, Antonio Jau, praised the voting system in Brazil and stated: “Everything we have today, regarding the electoral process, we owe to Brazil”. However, the legislative election process in March will not be monitored by the Brazilian Superior Electoral Court.

Besides the UN, the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP, in Portuguese) will also monitor the electoral process. According to the organization, there is still no defined date for the beginning of the mission, but there was an invitation from the Guinean and authorities and observers will be sent by member countries of CPLP.