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Guinea-Bissau presidential race heads for second round
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09:45, July 03, 2009

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The presidential elections in Guinea-Bissau will go to a second round after no outright winner emerged in Sunday's vote, the West African country's National Electoral Commission (CNE) announced on Thursday.

The presidential elections came after President Joao Bernardo Vieira, who ruled Guinea-Bissau for 23 years, failed to survive the attack on March 2, when "men in uniform" gunned him down at his residence in a revenge attack hours after an explosion killed his rival, military chief of staff Batista Tagme Na Waie.

According to the CNE statement reaching here, Malam Bacai Sanhaof the ruling Independence of Guinea- Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC) took the lead in Sunday's election, garnering 133,786 votes, or 39.59 percent.

Former president Kumba Yala, who represents the leader of the Party of Social Renovation (PRS), took the second place in the race scoring 99,428 votes, or 29,42%.

Under the Constitution, the two leading candidates will go into a runoff within 30 days if neither wins 50 percent of the votes in the first round.

CNE President Desejado Lima Da Costa said the second round will be held probably on July 28.

He put the turnout at 60 percent, deploring the impacts of the serial killings on the registered voters.

"I take this occasion to launch an appeal to all the voters in Guinea-Bissau so that they will come out en masse to vote in the second round and they will not give up their civil right," said the CNE president.

The results were published after Guinea-Bissau's voters began to cast their ballots on Sunday to choose a new president.

A total of 593 782 eligible voters of the West African nation's1.4 million population went to the 2,684 polling stations, which were opened at 7:00 a.m. (0700 GMT) and set to close at 5:00 p.m. (1700 GMT).

There are 11 candidates running for the presidency including the front-runner Sanha. The 62-year-old man was president of the National Assembly from 1994 to 1999. He acted as president of the 1999-2000 transitional period.

Sanha ran twice for the presidency, but lost to his rival Kumba Yala in 1999 and Vieira in 2005 respectively.

His PAIGC, the traditionally dominant party, won the legislative elections in November, scoring 67 of the 100 seats inthe National Assembly (parliament).

Yala, 56, was president between 2000 and 2003. His PRS took the second place in the legislative elections in November, winning28 seats.

Following the death of Vieira, President of the National Assembly (parliament) Raimundo Pereira has been acting as the interim head of state under the Constitution.

The instability, however, has not come to an end. On June 15, the minister of territorial administration and presidential candidate, Baciro Dabo, and former defense minister Helder Proenca were killed in what the intelligence agency said "a coup attempt."

A series of probes followed, but no culprits have been arrested, despite appeals by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to bring perpetrators to justice.

There were no reports of violence in Sunday's vote, but the international community is closely watching the post-election situation. To ensure stability, the United Nations has recommended the creation of a peace consolidation mission in Guinea, known as UNIOGBIS, which has a mandate till January 2010.

Guinea-Bissau has long suffered coups and coup attempts since its independence from Portugal in 1974. The country of 1.5 million population is among the poorest in the world, being ranked the 175th out of 177 nations in the U.N. Development Program's Human Development Index.

With a jagged Atlantic coastline, the country is being used by traffickers as a major hub for the flow of cocaine from Latin America to Europe. The international community hopes the election will end protracted instability and thwart attempts to make Guinea-Bissau a lawless a narco-state.

Source: Xinhua

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