A coalition of opposition groups in Guinea-Bissau has won a majority of seats in parliament in the first legislative elections since President Umaro Sissoco Embalo dissolved the National People’s Assembly more than a year ago.
The five-party Terra Ranka – a coalition led by the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) – won 54 of 102 seats in Sunday’s polls, ahead of Embalo’s Madem G15 party, which picked up 29, according to results announced by the electoral commission on Thursday.
The Party for Social Renewal (PRS) won 12 seats, the Workers’ Party six seats and the Assembly of the People United one seat.
More than 20 political parties and coalitions sparred for seats in the elections that will restore parliament after a 13-month absence.
Under the current political system, the majority party or coalition appoints the government, but the president has the power to dismiss it in certain circumstances. That has led to political deadlock and infighting in the past.
The small West African state has also faced chronic instability in the shape of repeated coups and contested election results.
But Sunday’s vote was given a clean bill of health by about 200 international monitors, who said they had not observed any major incident and described the ballot as “free, transparent and calm”.
The outcome is a blow for Embalo, who took office in 2020, because it spells the end of his plans to push through a constitutional change that would have allowed him to consolidate power by ridding the country of its semi-presidential system.
Embalo dissolved the National Assembly in May 2022 after falling out with lawmakers, describing the legislature as a “space for guerrilla politics and plotting”.
He acknowledged the setback in an address to the nation after the election results were announced.
“My party has failed. The people have punished it,” he said, congratulating the winning coalition.
The country of nearly 2 million people has seen frequent political turmoil with at least 10 coups or attempted coups since it gained independence from Portugal in 1974.
There was also an attempt to overthrow Embalo in February 2022.
Analysts said Embalo’s electoral setback was caused by rifts within his party and unpopularity with rural voters hit by the falling prices of cashew nuts, a major source of income.