Malam Bacai Sanha has won Guinea-Bissau’s presidential election with 63 % of the vote, defeating rival Kumba Yala in last weeks run-off, the West African country’s electoral commission said.
Both Sanha, who represents parliament’s biggest party the PAIGC, and Yala have previously led the politically unstable nation, where President Joao Bernardo Vieira was assassinated in March.
Yala, who has previously disputed electoral results and who wields influence with the military, accepted the outcome of the vote, Reuters reports.
Voters in Bissau had expressed hopes of an end to the decades of violence, coups and power struggles the country has endured since independence from Portugal in 1974, but the new president must deal with a powerful and meddling military.
“I see two major challenges for now. The most obvious is dealing with the military,” said independent West Africa analyst Richard Reeve.
“The second challenge is working successfully with Prime Minister (Carlos) Gomes Junior. They’re from the same party, but they don’t see eye to eye on everything.”
“Essentially, for Sanha to be an effective president in Guinea-Bissau’s interests means not being a very active president,” he said.
The country of 1.5 million is one of the world’s poorest, and its institutions have been weakened by the influence of Latin American drug traffickers, who have in recent years used Guinea-Bissau as a transit point for cocaine shipments to Europe, often with the complicity of the armed forces.
The country is seeking international help to rebuild the state’s capacity, and the UN has said it hopes the election will “mark a clear step forward” for Guinea-Bissau.
“These elections are very important for Guinea-Bissau because they will enable the consolidation of democracy and credibility and enable stability and development,” Desejado Lima da Costa, president of the electoral commission, told a news conference.
Analysts had spoken of Yala as a possible threat to the country’s immediate stability given his history of disputing results and his influence within the army, many of whose officers were promoted during his 2000-2003 term in office, but the losing candidate conceded defeat.
“Our responsibility is to respect democracy and the will of the people who voted … by respecting the victorious candidate,” Yala told a news conference.
Turnout was 61 % of the country’s near-600 000 registered voters, he said.
The streets of Bissau were calm, a diplomat in the city said, though some PAIGC supporters headed towards the party headquarters, waving flags and honking car horns in celebration.
The electoral commission said earlier this week it was satisfied with the conduct of the decisive poll.
“There were no reported incidents related to voting. Voting was conducted in a calm and serene manner,” a spokesperson for the commission said.
Pic: President Malam Bacai Sanha of Guinea Bissau