Guinea-Bissau heads to polls to elect new leaders

Guinea-Bissau heads to polls to elect new leaders

Voters in Guinea-Bissau are heading to the polls to choose the president and parliament members two years after a coup was staged in the country.

On Sunday, voters are to choose a new president among 13 politicians, while 15 political parties are fielding candidates for the parliamentary seats.

The elections are to be monitored by some 500 international observers and supervised by 4,200 Bissau-Guinean and West African soldiers.

If no clear winner emerges from the presidential poll, a run-off is scheduled for May 18.

The Sunday ballots are the first elections since the military staged a coup in 2012, after which the European Union suspended aid donations to the impoverished West African nation.

The country has a history of coups and uprisings since it declared independence from Portugal in 1974. No elected leader has served a full term in office.

Meanwhile, analysts have called for the new government to bring the country’s military into line.

“The new government will have to call into question the privileges enjoyed by senior military officers and carefully resume the security sector reforms that prompted the army to stage the coup,” said Vincent Foucher, a senior analyst for the International Crisis Group.

The new leader and government will also face a difficult task of fighting poverty as two-thirds of the country’s population of 1.6 million live below the poverty line.

The impoverished country is plagued by an ailing economy, cocaine trafficking and widespread corruption.

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