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GUINEA-BISSAU: Vieira officially declared president

BISSAU, 10 August 2005 (IRIN) - Guinea-Bissau's electoral commission on Wednesday formally declared one-time military ruler Joao Bernardo "Nino" Vieira the president of the small West African country, dismissing his challenger's claims that last month's ballot had been fraudulent.

Malam Mane, the electoral commission's head, confirmed provisional results that Vieira had garnered 52 percent of the vote in the 24 July poll, with Malam Bacai Sanha, the candidate of the ruling African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC) trailing in second with 48 percent.

"With these results, Vieira is elected president of Guinea-Bissau," Mane said, as outside the commission extra soldiers stood guard with Kalashnikovs and grenade launchers.

This presidential election was supposed to set the seal on Guinea-Bissau's return to constitutional government after a civil war in 1998-1999 that was followed by several years of political instability and administrative chaos.

But the process has not been as smooth as desired.

The final election results had been due to be published last week but the announcement was delayed after a complaint by Bacai Sanha's party, which cried fraud and demanded recounts in the capital Bissau, and districts to the east and west.

An array of international election observers had said immediately after the second-round run-off that the poll had been free and fair.

And on Tuesday the electoral commission concluded that although there had been some voting irregularities, they would not have had a major impact on the final outcome.

Bacai Sanha was unconvinced, however, and said he would not accept the results.

"We will go to the Supreme Court to contest these results," he told a press conference on Tuesday after the commission's ruling became public.

Under Guinea-Bissau's electoral law, the court has to rule within 48 hours of the complaint being lodged.

The capital remained tense on Wednesday, with people remembering what happened two weeks ago when the provisional results were announced and rival supporters threw bottles and stones at each other before police intervened.

Vieira -- who seized power in a coup in 1980 and went on to win the country's first multi-party elections in 1994 before being overthrown himself in 1999 -- urged Guinea Bissau's 1.3 million people to join together.

"We have to turn the page... and look to the future," he told a press conference late Wednesday. "From now on there are no Nino supporters and no Bacai Sanha supporters. It is the people of Guinea-Bissau who are the real winners in this election."

Theme (s): Conflict, Governance,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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