Will elections bring stability to Guinea-Bissau?

Guinea-Bissau President Manuel Serifo Nhamadjo Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Incumbent President Manuel Serifo Nhamadjo is not standing in the elections

Voters in the West African nation of Guinea-Bissau are to go to the polls on 13 April in what is being seen as a milestone in a country that has suffered five coups in the last three decades.

These presidential and parliamentary elections are the first since the 2012 coup that overthrew interim President Raimundo Pereira.

Incumbent President Manuel Serifo Nhamadjo, who has led the country on a transitional basis since 2012, is not standing but has pledged to hand over power when a new head of state has been inaugurated.

Will these elections be credible?

Part of the reason for the many coups in the history of this former Portuguese colony is the overarching influence of the military in politics. International pressure and the conduct of the military will therefore be key.

The UN has said that the country's return to stability depends in part on credible elections and it has vowed to impose "targeted sanctions" against those undermining efforts to restore constitutional order. The UN has also specifically warned military leaders against "meddling in the electoral process, or ignoring the vote outcome". For its part, the military has promised "zero" tolerance for fraud.

What are the key issues?

The five coups that have taken place since 1980 resulted in chronic instability and poverty for the country's 1.6 million people. The next president will need to uncouple the army from politics in order to prevent more coups and enhance political stability.

He will also need to bolster the fight against drug trafficking, as the country is seen as a transit point in the smuggling of South American cocaine into Europe. According to the UK's All-Parliamentary Group for Guinea-Bissau, the country "is widely acknowledged to be one of the world's international drug trafficking hubs" and is "one of the poorest nations on earth".

Who are the main parties?

The contest is arguably a two-horse race between the PAIGC (African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde) and the PRS (Party for Social Renewal).

The PAIGC is the former liberation movement that fought a guerrilla war against Portuguese colonial rule for over a decade and took power on independence in 1974. The dominant force in Guinea-Bissau politics, it was founded by veteran freedom fighter Amilcar Cabral in 1956.

The PRS has mostly been in opposition. Kumba Yala, the only president it has produced so far, was overthrown in a coup in 2003 and died earlier this month, just days before the elections. The party will be hoping for a strong turnout among the Balanta ethnic group, which is its main support base.

Who are the main presidential candidates?

Jose Mario Vaz, representing the PAIGC, is a former finance minister credited with implementing tough economic reforms. His efforts led to the Paris Club of lenders cancelling a $1bn ($600m) debt and France cancelling an 8m (£6.5m; $11m) euro debt.

Abel Incada, representing the PRS, is a businessman who previously served as first deputy chairman of the Chamber of Commerce. However, his failure to gain former President Yala's backing could prove costly. He endorsed Nuno Gomes Nabiam, a former head of the civil aviation authority, who is running as an independent.

Another candidate is Nazare de Pina Vieira, the widow of former President Joao Bernardo Vieira, who is standing as an independent. She has been living in Paris since her husband's assassination in March 2009.

Who is monitoring the elections?

Countries from the region body, Ecowas, agreed in February to deploy 750 troops to ensure security during the polls. There will also be international observers from the UK, the EU, the African Union, the UN, Ecowas, Nigeria and East Timor.

A presidential decree in February said that more than 776,000 people had registered to vote, representing 95% of eligible voters.

What is the electoral system?

The president is elected by an absolute majority, with a second round of voting if required. The presidential term is five years.

The 102 members of parliament are elected from 27 multi-member constituencies to serve four-year terms.

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