More than 80 percent of the population participated in the general elections on April 13, 2014, in which 13 candidates were running for president and 15 political parties were running for the National Assembly to form a new government. The official lists of candidates [pdf, pt] are available on the website of the National Election Commission (CNE).
A statement [pt] by the CNE right after the polling stations closed said “without clear data, that these general elections have had the biggest turnout of voters ever.”
“By turning out in unprecedented large numbers, in a peaceful and orderly fashion, the people of Guinea-Bissau have shown their unequivocal desire for the return to constitutional order in their country”, reacted Nobel Peacemaker José Ramos Horta, the special representative of the United Nations Integrated Peace-Building Office (UNIOGBIS) for Guinea-Bissau and former president of East Timor:
The elections that we have just witnessed, on 13 April 2014, have the potential of being imprinted in the history of the country as the turning point from the painful and chronic political instability that has plagued the country since its independence, to a period of peace, stability and development.
Political and military instability have indeed been a constant feature in Guinea Bissau, a country which has never seen an elected president reach the end of his mandate since its independence 40 years ago. On April 12, 2012, a few days before the presidential run-off, a military coup plunged the country into a crisis with lasting negative impacts at all levels of society.
The general elections of 2014 aimed to put an end to the Period of instability created by the coup, which installed a “transitional government” in power, mediated by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Domestic electoral observers
The elections saw the increasing involvement of citizens and civil society organizations in the democratic process and its monitoring. New technologies for communication and collaboration also played an important role.
Recognizing the importance of the “full participation of citizens in the functioning of democracy”, a coalition of 15 national organizations – the Grupo das Organizações da Sociedade Civil para as Eleições (Group of Civil Society Organizations for the Elections, GOSCE) – joined forces to run a domestic electoral watchdog by monitoring the pre-electoral period until the day of elections.
From April 9 to 13, GOSCE mobilized a network of about 400 citizen observers throughout the territory, ready to observe, collect and send via SMS data about the electoral campaign, media coverage, civic education activities, and the voting process itself, including turnout and the functioning of polling stations.
The website bissauvote.com, created by GOSCE in partnership with non-governmental organization One World and with the support of the European Union Delegation, provides a map of reports and a search engine by region and topic, as well as statistical reports.
The findings of the civic monitoring throughout the pre-electoral period have been summarized in a report [pdf, pt] that highlights the tone of the speeches by the candidates during the campaign; gender participation; presence of security forces and the independence of the media in the electoral coverage.
In a statement [pt] released after the voting day, GOSCE noted that although there had been reports of “84 incidents throughout the national territory, most of them related with situations of incompatibility of registered voters with the lists of voters”, the elections went well overall and were “generally peaceful”. The preliminary conclusions taken by the information that was collected throughout the process point out:
1. A campanha eleitoral, em particular os comícios realizados por partidos políticos e candidatos presidenciais, decorreram de forma pacífica sem registos significativos de incidentes de ordem político-partidária. De um modo geral, os discursos dos candidatos e partidos transmitiram uma mensagem pacífica e focalizada nas suas agendas políticas.
2. O esforço de equidade e imparcialidade dos meios do comunicação monitorizados – nomeadamente as rádios privadas e comunitárias – privilegiando a neutralidade no tratamento dos candidatos e partidos políticos.
3. A complementaridade das acções de educação cívica promovidas pela Sociedade Civil e pela Comissão Nacional de Eleições, permitindo o maior esclarecimento dos cidadãos eleitores relativamente ao processo eleitoral.
1. The electoral campaign, particularly the rallies carried out by political parties and presidential candidates, were held peacefully without significant incidents related with parties or politics. In general, the speeches of candidates and parties transmitted a peaceful message and were focused on their political agendas.
2. The effort of fairness and impartiality of the monitored media – including private and community radios – favored neutrality in the treatment of candidates and political parties.
3. The complementarity of civic education activities organized by civil society and the National Election Commission allowed for greater clarification of the electoral process for voters.
The electoral results [pt], announced on April 16, confirm a run-off to be held in May between the two presidential candidates that got the most votes: José Mário Vaz (41 percent) from the historical PAIGC party, and Nuno Nabiam (25 percent), running as an independent backed by the military.
For parliament, PAIGC got the majority of seats (55 out of 102), thus the next prime minister will be the leader of that party's parliamentary list, Domingos Simoes Pereira. The Party for Social Renewal (PRS) came in second, taking 41 seats of the National Assembly.
But “elections are only the first stage of a long-term effort to solve problems that have undermined progress for years”, stresses a briefing that has been recently published by the International Crisis Group, titled “Guinea-Bissau: Elections, But Then What?“.
The study enumerates the main challenges that the next elected government will have to face, highlighting that “given the country’s fragility, the political stakes in play, a suspicious military and a weak economy, real transformation will only be possible with strong international involvement, political and financial.” It adds that the country, “where participation in government has been the main method for acquiring wealth”, needs to balance the redistribution of power and resources, as well as “political and military will for reform”:
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.