BISSAU: Opposition leader Umaro Sissoco Embalo won presidential elections in the volatile West African state of Guinea-Bissau, picking up 53.55 percent of votes, the National Electoral Commission (CNE) announced on Wednesday.

Domingos Simoes Pereira, head of the country’s historic ruling party PAIGC, was credited with 46.45 percent in Sunday’s runoff.

“I declare Umaro Sissoco Embalo to be the winner, “CNE President Jose Pedro Sambu said.

Embalo declared he would be a “president of national harmony” and appealed for the country to rally behind him, but Pereira blasted the result as a fix and vowed to overturn it.

Supporters of Embalo erupted with joy close to the tightly-policed hotel in the capital Bissau where the results were announced. They beat pots and cans and sang and danced. Some bore giant red-and-white keffiyehs, the Arab headdress that became Embalo’s campaign trademark.

Embalo, 47, takes over from Jose Mario Vaz, who came to power in 2014 on hopes of stabilising a country notorious for coups since gaining independence from Portugal in 1974.

But his tenure was hampered by a paralysing faceoff with parliament under the country’s semi-presidential political system. The CNE put turnout at 72.67 percent, virtually identical to the first round of voting on November 24, which Pereira won with 40.1 percent against 28 percent for Embalo.

Embalo said: “I will be a president of national harmony.” But, he cautioned, “the campaign euphoria is over. I need (the support of) all Guinea-Bissauans in order to make a new Guinea-Bissau”.

In contrast, Pereira said he had taken advice from legal counsel and would file a petition to have the result annulled.

“The provisional results that have just been announced are full of irregularities, annulment and manipulation, which (constitutes) electoral fraud,” he said at a meeting of PAIGC activists.

Published in Dawn, January 2nd, 2020