Guinea-Bissau MPs extend mandate until November polls as crisis eases

Guinea-Bissau has been mired in a political crisis. (AFP pic)

BISSAU: Guinea-Bissau lawmakers met for the first time in nearly two years on Thursday, voting to extend their mandate until November elections in a key step towards ending a long-running political crisis in the impoverished West African country.

The former Portuguese colony has been in the grip of a power struggle since August 2015 when President José Mário Vaz sacked his then prime minister Domingos Simões Pereira.

Vaz has since nominated several prime ministers, but failed to gain the support of political parties. This week he appointed Aristides Gomes as premier, whom he described as a “consensus” candidate.

Gomes is tasked with leading Guinea-Bissau, one of the world’s poorest countries, until the legislative elections, set for November 18.

The MPs, whose mandate was to have expired next Monday, also elected José Pedro Sambu to head the electoral commission.

The parliamentary session was held amid tight security and with an impassioned call for a return to normalcy in a country which has also been wracked by coups.

“We must now bury the hatchet and turn towards the future. We must work for the well-being of our people who have suffered. We must turn towards the future. Enough is enough!” said parliament speaker Cipriano Cassama ahead of the session.

UN chief António Guterres had on Tuesday urged the government to quickly form an inclusive government and reopen parliament in line with an accord brokered in October by the ECOWAS West African regional bloc.