Guinea-Bissau’s Ruling Party Wins Most Seats in Legislative Vote

(Bloomberg) -- Guinea-Bissau’s divided ruling party won most seats in a long-delayed legislative vote on March 10, paving the way for a coalition that could ease political tensions in the West African nation.

The African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde, known as the PAIGC and formed as a movement to fight Portuguese colonizers in the 1960s, won 47 of the 102 seats in the National Popular Assembly, according to results published by the National Electoral Commission on Wednesday. Second-placed Madem G-15, a party created by PAIGC dissidents, won 27 seats.

The PAIGC has agreed to form a coalition with three other movements to gain an absolute majority with 54 seats and appoint a new government, said Bissau-based political analyst Rui Landim.

President Jose Mario Vaz is embroiled in a power struggle with the PAIGC, his own party, a feud which paralyzed the assembly for nearly two years until 2018. Vaz, a 61-year-old businessman, has fired six prime ministers since he took power in 2014 over disagreements on how to manage foreign aid.

Taking Charge

“The result increases the hope of a return of governability with a political bloc in charge of the destiny of the country,” Landim said. “But we need to wait and see how the scenario evolves.”

Instability has wracked the West African nation since independence in 1974, and no president has finished his term since the first multi-party elections in 1994. A presidential election is expected to be held later this year.

The political deadlock has raised fears criminal groups could return in force to the poor country that just over a decade ago became a transit hub for cocaine smuggled from South America to Europe. Last weekend, police seized nearly 800 kilograms of cocaine hidden in a fish truck, the country’s biggest ever drug bust.

More than 760,000 voters were expected to cast their ballots in the election contested by 21 parties. First scheduled for November after the Economic Community of West African States intervened in the dispute between Vaz and his party, the vote was postponed following delays in voter registration and claims of fraud.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.