High Voter Turnout is Likely
Guinea-Bissau’s election is only 9 days away. There are a couple of reasons that may contribute to high turnout in Guinea-Bissau.
First, elections are held on Sundays. Sunday, November 16 will be the Parliamentary election. As a result, voting does not interfere with the typical workweek, which is one way it may contribute to higher turnout. One of the primary reasons the United States has not attempted to switch Election Day to a weekend is the interference with religious holidays for many citizens. Seventy-eight and one-half percent of United States citizens are Christians (World Fact Book: United States). For Christians, Sunday is the Sabbath and many believe it would be an inappropriate day for elections. In contrast, Guinea-Bissau’s population is 50% Muslim, and 40% have Indigenous beliefs. Only 5% of Guinea-Bissau’s citizens are Christian (World Fact Book “Guinea-Bissau”). Muslim’s have a day of rest and prayer on Friday, as opposed to Sunday. This makes Sunday a more fitting day for Guinea-Bissau elections than it is for the United States elections.
A second factor that could contribute to Guinea-Bissau’s high turnout may be the view that reform is underway, and elections are significant to continue reforms and prevent instability. Guinea-Bissau has experienced political instability. There is a risk of the country becoming a narco-state, which is a state that is controlled largely by drug cartels where law enforcement is ineffective. Some already consider Guinea-Bissau a narco-state. To combat these problems, the UN has become involved. The UN has overseen and assisted with Guinea-Bissau elections in the past, with an attempt to move the country toward stability and democracy and to ensure fair elections. Guinea-Bissau has made a commitment to the UN that the November 16th Parliamentary elections will be transparent, free and fair. The international community, at the suggestion of the UN, has given money to help support this effort. Voters may feel that their role in this effort is to elect parties to parliament that will assist in eliminating instability and turn the country around. Voter turnout typically increases when citizens feel that their vote will have a significant impact on the future of the country. Because instability is a significant issue, it is likely that voters in Guinea-Bissau will view their role in the election as important.
Finally, in Guinea-Bissau’s last Parliamentary election, voter turnout was 80% of registered voters. Although turnout is typically higher for Guinea-Bissau Presidential elections, 80% of registered voters is high turnout. It is important to note, however, that not all eligible voters may be registered voters. For example, if only a small portion of eligible voters are registered and these individuals vote, the percent of registered voters that turnout may be high but the overall voter turnout may not be. As a result, past voter turnout of registered voters in Guinea-Bissau does not help predict turnout of eligible voters in the upcoming election.
What Does High Voter Turnout Mean for Guinea-Bissau?
High voter turnout can help establish legitimacy for the elected government. If voter turnout is low, the perception that the elected government was not widely supported can interfere with its ability to accomplish goals and gain public support for projects in office. The opposite also seems to hold true. If a party of candidate is elected with widespread support and high voter turnout they are perceived to have the backing of a significant amount of the population and may find it easier to accomplish goals in office or get support for programs and initiatives. Legitimacy is particularly important for Guinea-Bissau as a state that has recently transitioned into a democracy, but still faces many challenges. A strong government that is perceived to be legitimate will be more likely to remain stable.