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UN envoy: No excuse to delay Guinea-Bissau vote

February 26, 2014

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — All technical conditions for a vote in coup-plagued Guinea-Bissau are in place and there is no excuse to delay presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for April 13, the top U.N. envoy to the west African nation said Wednesday.

Nobel peace laureate Jose Ramos-Horta recommended that the Security Council consider “a robust and prompt response, including targeted sanctions, to any attempt to undermine the electoral process and post-electoral stability.”

No leader in Guinea-Bissau’s 40 years of independence has finished his term in office.

The country was just weeks away from a presidential runoff vote when the army arrested former Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior, who was expected to win. Since then, a transitional government has been running Guinea-Bissau.

The country’s interim president initially set elections for Nov. 24, but they were postponed until March 16 — and again last Friday until April 13.

Ramos-Horta, the former president of East Timor, told the Security Council by videoconference that provisional figures indicate at least 95 percent of the estimated potential voting population of 810,961 have been registered — “a surprising, impressive record” of over 776,000 voters.

A 15-day period to display and correct the provisional voter lists started on Feb. 18, the first batch of election materials have been delivered, and so far there are 12 candidates for president and some 40 parties expected to contest for seats in parliament, he said.

“While we are mindful that intra-party issues are still being worked out, which is to be expected in such kind of scenarios, the technical conditions for elections are therefore in place and no further delays should be considered,” Ramos-Horta said.

“Elections are to finally be held no later than April 13 and no further excuses should be accepted at all,” he said.

The Security Council urged all parties in Guinea-Bissau “to maintain the momentum begun with the registration process and to work toward timely elections and to renew their commitment to ensuring a conducive environment in the final weeks before the elections.”

Ramos-Horta said that according to an International Monetary Fund mission earlier this month, the economy hasn’t recovered from the consequences of the 2012 coup, and is likely to have grown by only 0.3 percent in 2013.

In addition, the humanitarian situation has deteriorated and civil servants are currently owed at least three months’ salary arrears, he said.

Ramos-Horta urged all political parties and their supporters to ensure “a climate of peace and security” for the elections, and he urged the defense forces and their institutions to “refrain from any interference and intimidation.”

He also urged the international community to be prepared to engage the new government “from day one” and support urgent modernization of the armed forces to ensure civilian oversight, which is “paramount for stability and democratic governance in Guinea-Bissau.”

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