Guinea-Bissau president sworn in despite contested vote

BISSAU, Guinea-Bissau (AP) — Former army general Umaro Cissoko Embalo was sworn in Thursday as president of Guinea-Bissau despite a pending Supreme Court decision on a request to annul the election results.

Outgoing President Jose Mario Vaz, who lost in the first round in November, was present at the ceremony. Then the entourages went to the presidential palace to hand over keys. Embalo served as prime minister under Vaz from 2016 to 2018.

The electoral commission has confirmed that Cissoko won the Dec. 29 second round vote.

But Domingos Simoes Pereira, who came in second, approached the Supreme Court on Wednesday asking for a fresh vote, alleging fraud.

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Simoes Pereira was the candidate for the ruling PAIGC party. The president of the National Assembly, a member of that party, did not swear Embalo into office.

Some high-ranking military officials and Senegal’s ambassador were among those attending the ceremony in a hotel, but other diplomats were absent.

Guinea-Bissau has a chaotic political history.

Vaz is the first democratically elected president to complete a full term without being deposed or assassinated since Guinea-Bissau became independent from Portugal in 1974.

His tenure was marred by political insecurity. While there has not been a coup in Guinea-Bissau since 2012, the country has had seven prime ministers appointed since August 2015.

The second round of elections was endorsed as free and transparent by the observer mission of the influential West Africa economic group ECOWAS, although it noted a low voter turnout.

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