DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Former prime minister Umaro Sissoco Embalo has won Guinea-Bissau’s presidential elections, the country’s electoral commission announced Wednesday.
The 47-year-old former army general won the Dec. 29 runoff with about 54% of the votes, the commission said. He beat another former prime minister, Domingos Simoes Pereira, who had come out ahead in the initial round of voting. Embalo, however, garnered the support of other candidates who did not make it to the second round.
Embalo will succeed incumbent President Jose Mario Vaz, who also failed to reach the second round of voting. Embalo served as prime minister under Vaz from 2016 to 2018.
Vaz, in power since 2014, has vowed to respect his defeat in a rare gesture of political stability. In a tear-filled New Year’s speech, he urged the new leaders to work toward stability.
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 has been 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.
Guinea-Bissau, a nation of around 1.5 million people, has long been beset by corruption and drug trafficking. In the 2000s, it became known as a transit point for cocaine between Latin America and Europe as traffickers profited from corruption and weak law enforcement.
There are signs, however, of increased government action against the drug trade. In September, the government seized more than 2 tons of cocaine in its largest seizure yet, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Ten people were arrested, including three Colombian nationals.