'Peaceful' Presidential Election in Guinea-Bissau

The voting process Sunday of Guinea-Bissau's presidential election was "peaceful, calm and orderly," said Oldemiro Baloi, who heads international observers of the Community of Portuguese speaking countries. Results of the balloting are expected Thursday.

The West African country has seen hardly any political stability since independence from Portugal 45 years ago.

President Jose Mario Vaz, who is seeking a second five-year term, is the only president since independence to survive a full term without a coup or assassination.

"The people of Guinea-Bissau are sovereign and I will respect the verdict of the ballot box," Vaz said after voting in the capital, Bissau.  "I have accomplished my mission of restoring peace and tranquillity."

The president's chief competitor was former Prime Minister Domingos Simoes Pereira, one of six prime ministers Vaz fired during his presidency.  

Pereira also vowed to "respect" the results of the election.  "These elections are crucial for future of the country," he said.  

Twelve candidates - all men - were running for president.

Vaz fired Prime Minister Aristides Gomes in late October and named a new head of government. But Gomes refused to step down. The regional bloc ECOWAS intervened to prevent the country from exploding into violence.

Whoever becomes the country's next president will face numerous challenges in one of the world's poorest countries, including poverty, corruption, drug trafficking, and badly needed improvements in health care and education.

If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, the top two finishers will meet in a runoff December 29.

by via Voice of America - English