BISSAU, (REUTERS) – Polls closed in Guinea-Bissau’s parliamentary elections on Sunday as voters sought some stability more than a year after President Umaro Sissoco Embalo dissolved parliament over accusations of corruption.
The West African country of nearly 2 million people has seen frequent political turmoil, with at least 10 coups or attempted coups since it gained independence from Portugal in 1974.
Sparring for seats in Sunday’s polls are more than 20 political parties and coalitions, including the former ruling PAIGC party and its rival MADEM G15.
At stake is Embalo’s attempt to change the constitution – if he has enough support in parliament, he may be able to consolidate power by ridding the country of its semi-presidential system.
The results are expected on Tuesday.
Given the fragmented playing field, analysts and politicians doubt that a clear majority will emerge.
“There will be no winner with an absolute majority in these elections. It is impossible,” said Prime Minister Nuno Gomes Nabiam. “No party is ready to govern Guinea-Bissau alone.”
Under the current political system, the majority party or coalition appoints the government but the president has the power to dismiss it in certain circumstances. That has led to political deadlock and infighting in the past.
The country’s scattered Atlantic islands and mangrove mazes are a draw for tourists but also cocaine traffickers en route from South America to Europe.
The economy often finds itself hostage to the volatile price of cashew nuts, the main income source for over two-thirds of households.
The latest coup attempt was in February last year when gunmen stormed a government compound where Embalo was holding a cabinet meeting. Embalo, who held on to power, linked the incident to the country’s booming drug trade.
The former army general then threw the country into further chaos in May 2022 when he sacked the government, helping delay local elections by months.