Campaigning in volatile Guinea Bissau is underway ahead of a much-delayed April 13 vote that many hope will draw a line under chronic instability in the country. The canvassing will go on without the participation of the country's national radio station after staff begun a 30-day strike. Official campaigning started Saturday and runs until the eve of the election where 800,000 eligible voters are to pick a new president and 102 legislators.
International observers have been positive about the peaceful campaigning so far and urged parties to maintain the order. Thirteen presidential candidates and 15 political parties are participating in the election in a country marked with frequent coups. Most politicians kicked off campaigns in their strongholds while a lot of activity was also visible in Bafata, Gabu, Oio and Bissau which are the most populated cities in one of West Africa’s least inhabited countries. The largest crowds have been observed at rallies of the leading and oldest party, the PAIGC which is led by José Mário Vaz, one of the most popular politicians in the country.
The country’s interim leadership and the electoral commission have also urged politicians and the electorate to avoid violence.
In a speech to launch the campaign period, interim President Serifo Nhamadjo, who will not vie, challenged candidates to exhibit fair play and accept the results of the ballot. "I would want people to transform this campaign into a violence-free democratic fete to be characterised by peace, tolerance and respect for each other," President Nhamadjo said. He said an estimated 4,923 local security forces will be deployed alongside the international peacekeepers to keep the peace. Mr Nhamadjo has led a transitional regime since a coup destabilised the country two years ago.
Source: Africa Review