Guinea Bissau: As Delayed Guinea-Bissau Vote Nears, UN Panel Stresses Need for Free, Fair Polls

Guinea-Bissau holds legislative and presidential elections on Sunday which are hoped will bring stability to the country two years after a coup. ( Resource: Campaigning Ends Ahead of Guinea-Bissau Elections

The United Nations panel dealing with peacebuilding efforts in Guinea-Bissau today welcomed the successful preparations for the country's upcoming legislative and presidential elections and called on all stakeholders to cooperate in ensuring that the polls are free and fair.

The elections, which have been postponed several times, most recently from 16 March to 13 April, is seen as a crucial step on the path to restoring constitutional order in the West African nation, which is recovering from an April 2012 coup.

"With the voter registration successfully completed, political campaign[ing] in full swing, and financial requirements timely made available by various international partners, it is expected that general elections will be held on 13 April," said a statement issued by the Guinea-Bissau Configuration of the UN Peacebuilding Commission (PBC). "No further delay is justifiable."

In February, the UN Security Council reiterated that it is willing to use targeted sanctions against civilian and military individuals who undermine efforts to restore the constitutional order, while voicing concern at the continuing delays in the elections, which it said had negative impacts on the country's social and economic well-being, as well as on the already fragile security, humanitarian and human rights situation there.

The PBC's Guinea-Bissau Configuration noted today that funding and preparations for the polls are "well on track." At the same time, it expressed its concern about recent episodes of political violence and condemned any attempt to employ fear and intimidation as political tools.

"The Guinea-Bissau Configuration of the PBC stresses that the 2014 elections will take place in a different environment from that of 2012," said the statement, noting the completion of the registration process, the security presence on the ground provided by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and improved coordination among the country's main international partners.

The Configuration emphasized that elections are only the "first and fundamental step" for restoring constitutional order, adding that they will need to be followed by the implementation of its results and by essential reforms to ensure lasting stability and democratic consolidation.

"The Configuration calls upon all national stakeholders to live up to their historical responsibilities towards the people of Guinea-Bissau and cooperate in holding of free and fair elections on 13 April, with a view to inaugurating a chapter of lasting peace and development for their country."

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