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Enabling Environments for Civic Movements and the Dynamics of Democratic Transition - Guinea-Bissau

Publisher Freedom House
Publication Date 10 July 2008
Cite as Freedom House, Enabling Environments for Civic Movements and the Dynamics of Democratic Transition - Guinea-Bissau, 10 July 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4912b61fc.html [accessed 24 April 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Period of democratic transition: 1994
Pro-democracy civic movement: not present

In 1980, Joao Bernardo Vieira led a bloodless military coup against the unpopular government of Luis Cabral. Vieira suspended the constitution and governed through a military council until 1984, when he approved the return to civilian rule, ensuring for himself the presidency and for his own party the Parliament.

In 1991, the transition to democracy began when the Parliament approved a multiparty system. The decision was driven by the belief that successful economic liberalization needed to be accompanied by political pluralism to attract external investment. However, Vieira and his party continued to control the nature and timing of the transition and barred two main opposition parties from competing with legislation prohibiting political parties from being either regionally or tribally based. In early 1992, security agents detained and beat members of the opposition who were planning a political rally. Despite harassment, a major demonstration attracted nearly 30,000 people and demanded that a national conference be held including all sectors of society to plan for democratic transition. However, these demands were ignored by the regime. Moreover, elections that were originally scheduled for 1992 were postponed twice and were not held until July 1994. Despite irregularities and delays in the electoral process, the elections were deemed free and fair; Vieira was elected with 51 percent of the vote in the second round, defeating Kumba Yala. The opposition, which had previously suspected electoral rigging, accepted the results as legitimate.

Democracy under Vieira was stable, though riddled with corruption, until 1998 when an army mutiny led to his overthrow. An ensuing period of multiple coups failed to install a durable government until 2005, at which point presidential elections returned Vieira to power.

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