Legislative elections in Guinea-Bissau: elections to end crises?
Nearly 884,000 voters in Guinea-Bissau are called to the polls this Sunday, to renew the 102 seats of the National People's Assembly. Parliament was dissolved in May 2022, at the initiative of the president, following a deep political crisis. These general elections are therefore supposed to resolve frequent political tensions.
The city center of Bissau under construction. © Bineta Diagne/RFI
Text by: Bineta Diagne
from our Special Envoy in Bissau,
This vote is important because Guinea-Bissau is governed by a semi-parliamentary system: the party or coalition that wins this election has not only weight in the Assembly, but also in the government. In this election, 22 parties, including two coalitions are running. There is in particular the Madem, the party in power. The PAIGC, a historic party, which has long dominated political life. The PRS, the party of former president Kumba Yala.
If the last coup d'état dates back to 2012, it should be noted that the instability at the head of the state remains chronic: institutional crisis in August 2015, crisis again last year during the coup attempt, then dissolution of Parliament a few months later. The challenge of this election is therefore to restore stability within the institutions.
Code of Conduct
A few weeks ago, the political parties signed a code of conduct, under the auspices of the UN: they undertake to accept the results of the elections. But will this declaration of intent be enough to dissipate tensions? In recent days, a statement by President Umaro Sissoco Embalo is a source of doubt. He maintains that if the PAIGC wins, he will not appoint Domingos Simoes Pereira, the PAIGC leader, as Prime Minister.
Not only does this call into question the transparency of the election, but it could also bring the return of a new political crisis, laments analyst Rui Jorge Semedo. The issue of the National Elections Commission has been dealt with irrationally, he said. Only the Supreme Court has the power to rule on candidacies. But for me, the president's statements about Domingos Simoes Pereira are a threat to the voters and to the Terra Ranka coalition. It's dangerous. This augurs a risk of a possible post-election crisis.»
Guinea-Bissau political scientist Rui Jorge Semedo. © Bineta Diagne/RFI
► Also listen: In Guinea-Bissau: "The statements of political actors are worrying"
Role of institutions
If his party wins, Umaro Sissoco Emballo wants to propose a reform of the Constitution to put an end to this semi-parliamentary regime. The president, on the other hand, wants to establish a presidential system. "The way in which the regime exercises power is incompatible with our power-sharing system," said Bubacar Touré, vice-president of the Guinea-Bissau League for Human Rights. The last three years have been marked by absolutism, the concentration of power in one person. So with these parliamentary elections, I think it will worsen the current situation."
Political tensions mixed with an economic crisis
During the campaign, the economic crisis was at the heart of the meetings. In particular, the crisis in the cashew sector. Indeed, the country derives two-thirds of its income from cashew nut exports. However, like several cashew-producing countries, Guinea-Bissau has been hit hard by the crisis that is paralyzing the international market, particularly in Vietnam.
► Read also: Collapse in cashew demand causes prices to fall
Several political parties have seized on this theme, to make promises to rural citizens. "Peasants live in precariousness, this will certainly have an impact on the election," says economist José Nico Dju. That is, voters will make a critical choice to look for the one who will solve this problem.»
This Friday marks the last day of campaigning: most political parties will march, in the form of caravans and rallies in the capital, to convince voters to choose their candidates.
This year, it is a total failure. It's discouraging because I work hard. I collect cashews from the plantation. And in the end, customers offer us very low prices, about thirty cents. The solution may be to process cashews to sell them at a higher price. In any case, many producers gave up and decided not to harvest.
The cashew crisis is invited into the legislative campaign
Cashew sellers at Bissau's central market. © Bineta Diagne/RFI
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- Umaro Sissoco Embalo