Nearly four months after the disputed presidential election results of 29 December 2019, which had the country’s national electoral authority (CNE) declaring Umaro Sissoco Embalo as the winner, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) announced on 22 April that it recognised Embalo’s election, while calling for the nomination of a new prime minister.
In a statement published by ECOWAS, the mediator in the chronic crises agitating Guinea-Bissau, the regional organisation said: “In the face of the persistence of this blockage and after an in-depth analysis of the country’s political situation, the ECOWAS heads of state and government decided to recognise the victory of Mr Umaro Sissoco Embalo.”
The chairman of the extraordinary session of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou, “welcomed the attendance of President Umaro Sissoco Embalo” during a videoconference meeting on COVID-19 this past Thursday, according to a copy of his speech.
The announcement of Embalo’s electoral victory, with 53.55% of the vote, in early January by the CNE was vigorously disputed by the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC), which had come out on top in the last legislative elections.
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The party’s president and candidate, Domingos Simões Pereira, known as “DSP”, had taken the case to the Supreme Court to request a voting recount of the second round of the election. On several occasions the court had asked the CNE to perform an audit of the votes and proceedings, which pulled the two organisations into a power struggle.
A new prime minister?
At the end of February, after a tour of several African countries where he has a wellspring of supporters, Embalo organised his inauguration ceremony to mark his succession of José Mário Vaz. Immediately afterwards, he moved into the presidential palace, paying no heed to the fact that the Supreme Court had not made a final decision regarding the appeal filed by DSP, who still maintains that the election was marred by electoral fraud.
Around that same time, Embalo sacked Prime Minister Aristides Gomes (PAIGC), who had been appointed following an ECOWAS-led mediation, and designated a government headed by his ally Nuno Gomes Nabiam (who came in third during the presidential election, with 13% of the vote).
ECOWAS has asked Embalo “to appoint a prime minister and a government, no later than 22 May 2020, in accordance with the provisions of the constitution and in light of the results of the legislative elections.”
According to the constitution, the head of government is appointed by the president based on the outcome of legislative elections and the political parties represented in parliament, which is currently dominated by the PAIGC.
In addition, ECOWAS recommends that Guinea Bissau reform its constitution, as it is frequently cited as a factor in the country’s instability. In that vein, ECOWAS stated “the need to immediately initiate a constitutional reform that shall be put to a referendum within six months.”
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