Umaro Cissoko Embalo has won Guinea-Bissau’s presidential election, according to results released by the National Election Commission on Jan 1. Embalo, who was a candidate for the opposition outfit Movement for Democratic Alternation, garnered 53.55 percent of the votes cast in a presidential run-off held on Sunday.

Domingos Simoes Pereira, who was the candidate of the country’s ruling Guinea and Cape Verde African Independence Party, took 46.45 percent of the votes cast in the election, where the NEC put the voter turnout at 72.67 percent.

According to the African Union Election Observation Mission, also known as the AUEOM to Guinea-Bissau’s presidential election, the elections were free, regular and transparent.

“The AUEOM congratulates the Bissau Guinean people for their political maturity and for their ownership of the electoral process. It noted that the vote was conducted in peace and security necessary for the free expression of suffrage,” the AUEOM to Guinea-Bissau said in its preliminary election outcome statement issued on Dec 31.

The AUEOM also called on the international community to continue its support to Guinea-Bissau in its effort to consolidate the achievements of democracy in order to engender peace, stability, the rule of law and sustainable development.

Incumbent President Jose Mario Vaz lost the election in the first round held in November, where no candidate won more than 50 percent of the ballots, prompting the runoff between the top two contenders in December.

Embalo, who served as prime minister of Guinea-Bissau from November 2016 to January 2018, said he wants to resolve political tensions in the west African country that has seen nine coups or attempted coups since 1974.

The newly-elected president now faces the daunting task of overcoming a long-drawn political gridlock and modernizing the west African country of 1.6 million people, as most Guinea-Bissau residents hope the election will end years of political crisis.

In the first round of the elections, Pereira emerged victorious with 40 percent of the vote but Embalo secured the backing of the other main contenders and parties to pull ahead in the second round. Pereira said on Wednesday that he will contest the runoff results.

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