ADVERTISEMENT

Former Guinea-Bissau PM Umaro Sissoco Embalo wins presidency

January 1, 2020 GMT
File - In this Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017 file photo Umaro Sissoco Embalo, then Prime minister of Guinea-Bissau, addresses the United Nations General Assembly at the United Nations headquarters. A former prime minister of Guinea-Bissau, Umaro Sissoco Embalo, has won the country's presidential elections, the electoral commission announced Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File)
File - In this Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017 file photo Umaro Sissoco Embalo, then Prime minister of Guinea-Bissau, addresses the United Nations General Assembly at the United Nations headquarters. A former prime minister of Guinea-Bissau, Umaro Sissoco Embalo, has won the country's presidential elections, the electoral commission announced Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File)
File - In this Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017 file photo Umaro Sissoco Embalo, then Prime minister of Guinea-Bissau, addresses the United Nations General Assembly at the United Nations headquarters. A former prime minister of Guinea-Bissau, Umaro Sissoco Embalo, has won the country's presidential elections, the electoral commission announced Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File)

BISSAU, Guinea-Bissau (AP) — A former prime minister of Guinea-Bissau, Umaro Sissoco Embalo, has won the country’s presidential elections, the electoral commission announced Wednesday, as the losing candidate vowed to contest the results in court.

The 47-year-old former army general won the Dec. 29 runoff with about 54% of the votes, the commission said. He beat another former prime minister, Domingos Simoes Pereira, who had come out ahead in the initial round of voting, but on Sunday earned just 46% of the vote, according to the commission. Embalo, however, garnered the support of other candidates who did not make it to the second round.

ADVERTISEMENT

Embalo will succeed incumbent President Jose Mario Vaz, who also failed to reach the second round of voting. Embalo served as prime minister under Vaz from 2016 to 2018.

Vaz, in power since 2014, has vowed to respect his defeat in a rare gesture of political stability. In a tear-filled New Year’s speech, he urged the new leaders to work toward stability.

Vaz is the first democratically elected president to complete a full term without being deposed or assassinated since Guinea-Bissau became independent from Portugal in 1974. His tenure has been marred by political insecurity. While there has not been a coup in Guinea-Bissau since 2012, the country has had seven prime ministers appointed since August 2015.

Pereira said Wednesday he will use all legal means to contest the provisional results.

“I am ready to lead this army of young people who are willing to recover the truth,” he said. “We cannot accept the results presented today. It is a scandal.”

The second round of elections was endorsed as free and transparent by the observer mission of the influential West Africa economic group, ECOWAS, although it noted a low voter turnout.

As a result of Guinea-Bissau’s history of instability, ECOWAS said it had put its military force on standby ahead of the runoff vote in the event of a coup.

Guinea-Bissau, a small nation of around 1.5 million people, has long been beset by corruption and drug trafficking. In the 2000s, it became known as a transit point for cocaine between Latin America and Europe as traffickers profited from corruption and weak law enforcement.

There are signs, however, of increased government action against the drug trade. In September, the government seized more than 2 tons of cocaine in its largest seizure yet, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Ten people were arrested, including three Colombian nationals.

___

Petesch reported from Dakar, Senegal.