State and politics
Guinea-Bissau became independent from Portugal in 1974.
The country has since experienced numerous coups, coup
attempts and long periods of unresolved political conflicts. See ABBREVIATIONFINDER for how PU can stand for Guinea-Bissau.
The constitution was adopted in 1984 and has subsequently
been revised several times. In the late 1980s, a
democratization process began, which in 1991 led to a number
of constitutional changes, including the introduction of
multi-party systems and market economy. Similarly, the link
between the armed forces was abolished and until its
state-bearing Partido Africano da Independência da Guiné
e Cabo Verde (PAIGC). Through a constitutional
amendment in 1996, Guinea-Bissau applied for membership in
the West African Franc zone, where the country entered 1997.
The president is elected in general elections for five
years; In 1999, the president's term in office was limited
to a maximum of two terms. The government is led by the
prime minister appointed by the president.
The legislative power is held by a directly elected
parliament with 102 members with a term of office of four
In the 1994 presidential election, the first since
democracy was introduced, João Bernardo Vieira, who has been
head of state since he took power in a coup d'etat in 1980,
prevailed. He was deposed by the military in 1999 and fled.
In the presidential election the following year, Kumba Ialá
(1952–2014), representing the Partido para a Renovação
Social (PRS), defeated PAIGC candidate Malam Bacai
PAIGC, which was a leader in the fight against the
Portuguese colonial power and which since independence has
been the dominant political force in the country, still has
great influence. The party retained power in the first free
elections in 1994, lost it to the PRS in 1999 but returned
to office in 2004 after five years marked by great political
In 2005, Vieira, who was running as an independent
candidate, returned to the presidential post after defeating
Sanhá in the second round with 52 percent of the vote.
Vieira lacked stable support in the National Assembly and
the government crises replaced each other in the coming
years. In the 2008 parliamentary elections, PAIGC again won.
Vieira was murdered in March 2009 by soldiers and
succeeded by Sanhá who received 63 percent of the votes in
the second round of the presidential elections in July of
that year. Sanhá passed away in January 2012 and was
temporarily replaced by Parliament's President Raimundo
Pereira (born 1956).
Presidential elections were announced until March of the
same year. PAIGC's Carlos Gomes Júnior (born 1949) resigned
as prime minister in order to run for office, and in the
first round of elections he received 49 percent of the vote.
Former President Kumba Ialá, who finished second with 23
percent of the vote, demanded that the election be annulled
and refused to take part in a second round of elections.
However, the election was largely approved by international
observers, and the country's election commission rejected
In April 2009, the military took power in a coup and the
second round of elections never came to fruition. A national
transitional council was formed, without the participation
of PAIGC. The interim president was appointed PAIGC's third
president, Manuel Serifo Nhamadjo (1958-2020). He accepted
the assignment only after the junta agreed to the West
African cooperation organization ECOWAS's demand that
elections be held within twelve months and that a regional
military force be sent to the country.
The military is apparently powerful in Guinea-Bissau. In
addition to being involved in politics several times, high
ranking officers are suspected of being involved in the drug
smuggling from Latin America to Europe, which has been
making its way via Guinea-Bissau for several years.
However, the elections were postponed several times and
only held in April 2014. In the parliamentary elections,
PAIGC, which received 55 seats, won against 41 for the PRS.
The battle for the presidential post was primarily between
PAIGC's candidate, former Finance Minister José Mario Vaz,
and independent candidate Nuno Gomes Nabiam; neither
Nhamadjo nor Ialá lined up. After a first round of voting
where Vaz received 41 percent of the vote and Nabiam 25
percent held a second round of elections in May, in which
Vaz received 62 percent of the vote.
In 2015, a power struggle broke out, both within PAIGC
and partly between forces within the party and President Vaz,
who basically crippled politics in the country. In 2016, the
president dismissed Prime Minister Carlos Correia (born
1933), but he and PAIGC have not been able to agree on any
To break the deadlock, parliamentary elections were
announced for the fall of 2018 and a collaborative
government with ministers from both PAIGC and PRS was
formed. The elections were first held in March 2019 and
resulted in yet another victory for PAIGC, which was forced
to seek support from smaller parties to gain a majority in
the National Assembly. However, Vaz refused to approve PAIGC
party leader Domingos Simões Pereira (born 1963) as head of
government and reappointed Aristides Gomes (born 1954) to
When Guinea-Bissau became independent in 1973, the
country continued to apply Portuguese law in the absence of
alternatives. The death penalty was abolished in 1993; the
last known execution took place in 1986.
Heads of State
||João Bernardo Vieira
||Malam Bacai Sanhá
||João Bernardo Vieira
||Malam Bacai Sanhá
||Manuel Serifo Nhamadjo
||José Mário Vaz
||Umaro Sissoco Embaló