We’ve previously discussed on this blog the striking similarities between symbols of the PAIGC and the State of Guinea-Bissau. Further complicating matters, the language of the Guinea-Bissau Constitution underlines the party’s hegemony, describes the people’s debt owed to the PAIGC, and borders on idolatry. The Preamble to the Constitution begins:
“In an exemplary manner the Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC), having been founded on 19 September 1956, has accomplished its political and military action plan [Programa Minimo], consisting of liberating the people of Guinea and Cape Verde, winning the sovereignty of the two respective states simultaneously […] The Party consecrated the independence, winning internal and international harmony, respect and admiration as the form for directing the future of the Guinea nation, namely through the creation and institutionalisation [sic] of the state structure.”
The text clearly intimates that the PAIGC should not only be credited with the creation of the state, but also should be entrusted with it’s future. The preamble goes on to state that “the Popular National Assembly congratulates the PAIGC on paper for being in the vanguard involved in unfolding the conduct of the destiny of the nation.”
Given the above excerpt of the Guinean Constitution, it should come as no surprise that the PAIGC has been the major player since enacting the constitution. Current President João Bernardo "Nino" Vieira was both dictator and head of the PAIGC for nearly 20 years, and was first elected to his current seat in 1994, running with the PAIGC. At that time, the PAIGC won a 62 out of 100 seat majority in the National People’s Assembly in the July 1994 parliamentary elections. And though they lost this majority in 1999, they came back with a plurality of 45 out of 100 seats in 2004. Vieira later ran as an independent in the 2005 presidential race, but his long-standing ties with the PAIGC amounts to yet another victory for the vanguard party.
With the history of PAIGC control, or at the least competition, we can expect a strong showing on their behalf in the elections this Sunday. But does this represent free and fair elections? Does a party that is credited with the creation of the government compete on the same playing field as all others? With such nationalist symbols, can the voter distinguish any separation of the PAIGC and the state? The PAIGC’s ties to the independence movement and its involvement in drafting the constitution (especially the electoral system), give it an unfair advantage over other parties. When you make the rules you know how to play the game. Of course, the issue here is that the game should be fair—these are the lives and freedoms of 1,503,182 people. But in Guinea-Bissau, after a history of PAIGC dictatorship and a bloody civil war, perhaps no one expects politics to be fair.
(please address grading of this week's posts separately)
Constitution of Guinea-Bissau
Guinea-Bissau Election Results
CIA World Factbook - Guinea-Bissau