|PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION IN GUINEA BISSAU
24 NOVEMBER 2019
- Pursuant to the ECOWAS Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance (2001) and ECOWAS Framework Document for Conflict Prevention (2018), His Excellency Mr Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, President of the Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), fielded an Electoral Observation Mission (EOM) led by me, Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga, former Prime Minister of the Republic of Mali. I was assisted in this assignment by General Francis Behanzin, ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security and the entire team of the ECOWAS Representation in Guinea Bissau led by Mr Blaise Diplo-Djomand.
- The Mission which I conducted on behalf of ECOWAS is in continuation of efforts made by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Guinea Bissau in fulfilment of the decisions of the Heads of State and Government to support the elections. The 75-man mission comprised ambassadors, parliamentarians, lawyers, electoral officers and members of the civil society. A team from the ECOWAS Commission also provided technical support to the Mission.
- The objective of the Election Observers Mission (EOM) is to contribute to the creation of an enabling environment to hold a peaceful and credible Presidential Election that is acceptable to all political stakeholders as well as the people of Guinea Bissau.
- GENERAL BACKGROUND
- Parliamentary elections of 10 March 2019
- Parliamentary elections were held on 10 March 2019, which is the first step to ending the political and institutional crisis facing the country since 2015. These very important parliamentary elections, which is the government’s own way of ending the crisis in order to put the country back on the path to stability, were deemed transparent and credible and accepted by all political parties.
- It should be recalled that this election is the turning-point not only for national stakeholders, but also for the entire international community to ensure a lasting solution to the political and institutional crisis confronting Guinea Bissau since August 2015. Consequently, within the framework of the implementation of the Bissau Roadmap (September 2016), Conakry Agreement (October 2016), the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government deployed several preventive and diplomatic intervention missions to the country.
- In the aftermath of the parliamentary elections, which reveal the power balance of parties on the field, were not able to end the political impasse facing the country. The stalemate persisted and the process of inaugurating the Parliamentary structures was not promptly concluded.
- In furtherance to support measures for the electoral process, the Authority of Heads of State and Government, at its 55th Summit held on 29 June 2019 in Abuja, commended the Decree issued by H.E. Jose Mario Vaz fixing the date of the 24 November 2019 presidential election, appointing a Prime Minister and forming a new government.
- After consultations with Guinea Bissau political stakeholders, the Authority decided to maintain the President in office, and the conduct of presidential elections and formation of a new government in accordance with the Constitution of Guinea Bissau.
- In order to pool efforts towards holding the presidential election on the scheduled date, several diplomatic preventive missions were fielded, including the joint United Nations, African Union (AU), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP) mission, on 7 October 2019.
- Several obstacles (material, financial and political) were gradually removed to ensure the conduct of the 24 November 2019 election, thus reaffirming the determination of Guinea Bissau stakeholders and the firm support of ECOWAS to the promotion of democratic principles and a successful resolution to the Guinea Bissau crisis. One of the major decisions is that stakeholders have agreed to use the voter’s register from the parliamentary elections of 10 March 2019.
- SUPPORT FOR THE ELECTORAL PROCESS
- To support the electoral process which culminating in yesterday’s election on 24 November 2019 in Guinea Bissau, the ECOWAS Commission took the following measures:
- Deployment of a pre-electoral mission;
- Support to the electoral process through the disbursement of 1.5 million US dollars;
- Deployment of two (2) experts, one to audit the voter’s register and the other to support NEC electoral operations;
- Constitution of the media team to cover the elections;
- Deployment of ten (10) long-term observers, from 15 to 28 November 2019 and;
- Deployment of 65 short-term observers, from 20 to 27 November 2019.
- Launched on 2 November 2019, the election campaign took place throughout the country in a peaceful and festive atmosphere. Political parties and candidates generally displayed exemplary behaviour in compliance with the texts and laws in force.
- As stipulated by law, adequate measures were put in place by the National Council for Social Communication to ensure that candidates have free and fair access to public media.
- PRE-ELECTORAL CONSULTATIONS AND DEPLOYMENT
- Following the activities of the Long-Term Election Observation Mission (LTEOM), the Head of the ECOWAS Observation Mission, upon his arrival in Bissau, met with the President of the Republic of Guinea Bissau, H.E. Mr José Mario Vaz, and with the Chair of Cabinet, representing the Prime Minister who is on mission. He also met with the Chairman of the National Electoral Commission (NEC). The Head of Mission held discussions with all Heads of International Observation Missions before and after the election, namely the African Union, the International Organisation of La Francophonie (OIF), the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries (CPLP), the Embassy of the United States, a parliamentary delegation from the United Kingdom and a delegation of observers from the Federal Republic of Nigeria. A United Nations monitoring mission was also at the meeting.
- The various consultations offered the Head of Mission the opportunity to assess the efforts made by the authorities and the bodies responsible for managing the electoral process.
- Before their deployment to 7 of the 8 regions of Guinea Bissau and in the capital city, the seventy-five (75) observers were briefed mainly on the political and security situation and developments with regard to the electoral situation.
- OPENING, VOTING AND COUNTING OF VOTES
- Voting generally started between 7:00am and 7:48am in most polling stations. The delay observed mainly in Bissau was due in particular to the non-availability of some materials, more importantly due to the quality or lack of indelible ink;
- The Mission noted the effective presence of election officials and the availability of election materials in most of the polling stations visited;
- The Mission took note of active participation of women and the youth as electoral officers and voters;
Representatives of candidates
In most polling stations, the Mission noted the presence of representatives of the various candidates, namely Umaru Cissoko of MADEM.G15 – Nuno Nabiam of APU-PDGB & PRS – Domingos Simoes Pareira of PAIGC – Baciro Dja of FREPASNA, and José Mario Vaz and Carlos Gomez Junior (independent candidates).
In majority of polling stations, the Mission noted the presence of about 3 or 4 security officers from National and Security Forces and ECOMIB. There were also security patrols in some places;
- No major incident was observed at the polling stations visited;
- Lack of ink and the quality of ink in some polling stations delayed voting;
- Some cases of poor management of voting procedures were observed;
- Missing names of some voters in the voter’s register.
Voting took place in a calm and peaceful atmosphere. Electoral officers complied with voting procedures in general.
Other Observers met
The Mission met with international and national observers. The Mission met with international observers from the African Union, OIF, CPLP and the United States Embassy. At the local level, the Monitorio Unit, created as a result of partnership between the United Nations and the European Union, was met in order to assist people with disabilities. A consortium of Civil Society members was also on ground.
People with disabilities
Adequate arrangements were made to assist people with disabilities and the elderly.
Closing of polling station and vote counting
The counting process at polling stations was conducted in a transparent manner, in the presence of the representatives of candidates and observers.
- The presidential election of 24 November 2019 was held in a calm and peaceful atmosphere.
- The shortcomings identified during the conduct of the election are not likely to undermine the credibility of the presidential election.
- The ECOWAS Election Observation Mission welcomes the efforts made by Guinea Bissau authorities and the electoral bodies to ensure successful conduct of the election. It urges the election management bodies (EMBs) to approach the final phases of the process with fairness, openness and transparency until the results are announced. The ECOWAS Observation Mission invites the bodies responsible for the electoral process to work diligently and accelerate the process of centralisation, compilation and declaration of results.
- The Mission urges the candidates to accept the will of the people of Guinea Bissau and, in the event of a dispute, to resort exclusively to legal means in order to seek redress. The population is urged to be calm while awaiting the official announcement of the results by the authorised bodies.
- At this stage of the electoral process, the Mission urges the authorities to take the necessary steps to ensure that voter’s registers are prepared by consensus for the upcoming elections and that voter’s lists are systematically posted in the polling centres;
- At the end of the observation mission, a comprehensive final report with recommendations will be prepared for the attention of those involved in the electoral process.
- The presidential election of 24 November 2019 is a crucial step in the consolidation of the democratic achievements of the people of Guinea Bissau. The election will complete the electoral cycle started on 10 March and is expected to put an end to the socio-political crisis in Guinea Bissau. The election took place as a result of the determination of the people and their leaders and of the entire international community, which is continually committed to supporting the gallant people of Guinea Bissau.
- The Mission expresses its sincere appreciation to the relevant Guinea Bissau authorities and to the ECOWAS Force (ECOMIB) for the effective measures taken to secure the Observers and facilitate their deployment to the different regions of the country.
Done in Bissau, this 25th day of November 2019
H.E. Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga
Head of ECOWAS Election Observation Mission