Guinea-Bissau, a West African nation with a history of political unrest, is heading to the polls on Sunday for local elections, as the population seeks stability following the dissolution of parliament by President Umaro Sissoco Embalo over corruption allegations. Since gaining independence from Portugal in 1974, the country has experienced numerous coups or attempted coups, adding to its political instability.
Over 20 political parties and coalitions, including the former ruling PAIGC party and its rival MADEM G15, are competing for seats in the elections. However, analysts and politicians doubt that any party will secure an absolute majority due to the fragmented political landscape.
Prime Minister Nuno Gomes Nabiam expressed skepticism, stating that it is impossible for any party to win an outright majority in these elections. He added that no party is prepared to govern Guinea-Bissau alone.
The country’s current political system allows the majority party or coalition to appoint the government, but the president retains the power to dismiss it under certain circumstances. This dynamic has previously resulted in political deadlock and internal conflicts.
Guinea-Bissau’s unique geography, with scattered Atlantic islands and mangrove mazes, attracts both tourists and drug traffickers using it as a transit point from South America to Europe. The economy heavily relies on the volatile price of cashew nuts, which serves as the main source of income for over two-thirds of households.
The nation has a history of political discord, including disputed elections in 2019 that led to a brief period with two presidents and two prime ministers claiming power.
In February of the following year, gunmen attempted a coup by storming a government compound where Embalo was conducting a cabinet meeting. Embalo, who managed to retain power, connected the incident to the country’s flourishing drug trade.
In May 2022, he further contributed to the chaos by dismissing the government, causing a significant delay in the scheduled local elections.