Opposition leader Umaro Sissoco Embalo won the presidential election in the volatile West African state of Guinea-Bissau, the National Electoral Commission (CNE) announced Wednesday, but the country’s historic ruling PAIGC party cried foul.
Embalo won 53.55 percent of votes, according to the provisional results, with PAIGC head Domingos Simoes Pereira on 46.45 percent in Sunday’s runoff election.
“I declare Umaro Sissoco Embalo to be the winner,”CNE President Jose Pedro Sambu said.
Embalo said he would be a “president of national harmony” and appealed for the country to rally behind him, but Pereira blasted the result as a fix and vowed to overturn it.
His supporters celebrated close to the tightly-policed hotel in the capital Bissau where the results were announced.
They beat pots and cans and sang and danced. Some bore giant red-and-white keffiyehs, the Arab headdress that became Embalo’s campaign trademark.
– ‘Full of irregularities’ –
In contrast,` Pereira said he had taken advice from legal counsel and would file a petition to have the result annulled.
“The provisional results that have just been announced are full of irregularities, annulment and manipulation, which (constitutes) electoral fraud,” he told a meeting of PAIGC activists.
“We cannot accept a result of this kind,” he said. “We are going to put forward all the evidence to show that the results have been changed.”
Embalo, 47, takes over from Jose Mario Vaz, who came to power in 2014 on hopes of stabilising a country notorious for coups since gaining independence from Portugal in 1974.
But his tenure was hampered by a paralysing faceoff with parliament under the country’s semi-presidential political system.
– ‘Harmony’ and ‘fraud’-
The CNE put turnout at 72.67 percent, virtually identical to the first round of voting on November 24, which Pereira won with 40.1 percent against 28 percent for Embalo.
Embalo, in a news conference at his campaign headquarters, said: “I will be a president of national harmony.”
But, he cautioned, “the campaign euphoria is over. I need (the support of) all Guinea-Bissauans in order to make a new Guinea-Bissau”.
Embalo is nicknamed “The General,” a reference to his rank as a reserve brigadier general. He quit the army in the 1990s.
Like Pereira, he is also a former prime minister, serving under Vaz between 2016 and 2018, before representing Madem, a party formed by PAIGC rebels.
A father-of-three and a Muslim, Embalo is married to a Christian. He fought to overcome his first-round vote deficit by portraying himself as a unifier of the country and by gaining the backing of eliminated candidates, including Vaz.