The politics of Guinea-Bissau take place in a framework of a semi-presidential representative democratic republic, with a multi-party system, wherein the President is head of state and the Prime Minister is head of government. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the National People's Assembly.

Since 1994, the Bissau-Guinean party system has been dominated by the socialist African Independence Party of Guinea and Cape Verde and the Party for Social Renewal. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.

Despite the democratic, constitutional framework, the military has exercised substantial power, and has interfered repeatedly in civilian leadership since multi-party elections were instituted in 1994. In the past 16 years, Guinea-Bissau has experienced two coups, a civil war, an attempted coup, and a presidential assassination by the military. Since the country's independence in 1974, only one president successfully completed his five-year term, José Mário Vaz.[1]

Political developments

Guinea-Bissau's Presidential Palace in the capital Bissau.

In 1989, the ruling African Independence Party of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC), under the direction of President João Bernardo "Nino" Vieira, began to outline a political liberalization program which the People's National Assembly approved in 1991. Reforms that paved the way for multi-party democracy included the repeal of articles of the constitution, which had enshrined the leading role of the PAIGC. Laws were ratified to allow the formation of other political parties, a free press, and independent trade unions with the right to strike.

Guinea-Bissau's first multi-party elections for president and parliament were held in 1994. Following the 1998-99 civil war, presidential and legislative elections were again held, bringing opposition leader Kumba Ialá and his Party for Social Renewal to power. Ialá was ousted in a bloodless coup in September 2003, and Henrique Rosa was sworn in as president.

Former president Viera was once again elected as president in July 2005. The government of Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Júnior was elected in March 2004 in a free and fair election, but was replaced by the government of Prime Minister Aristides Gomes, which took office in November 2005. Gomes lost a no-confidence vote and submitted his resignation in March 2007.

Martinho Ndafa Kabi was then nominated as prime minister by a coalition composed of the PAIGC, the Social Renewal Party (PRS), and the United Social Democratic Party (PUSD). On April 9, 2007, it was announced that President João Bernardo Vieira had rejected the choice of Kabi, but the coalition said that they maintained him as their choice. Later that day, Vieira appointed Kabi as the new prime minister. Kabi took office on April 13, and his government, composed of 20 ministers (including eight from the PAIGC, eight from the PRS, and two from the PUSD) was named on April 17.

2009 assassination

President Viera was killed on March 2, 2009, by soldiers as retaliation for the killing of the head of the joint chiefs of staff, General Tagme Na Waie, who was murdered the previous day.

2010 military unrest

Main article: 2010 Guinea-Bissau military unrest

Prior to the 2008 election, a decision to change the electoral date and extend the parliamentary mandate resulted in major controversy when Assembly deputies snubbed the president and chose to extend their mandate. After the Supreme Court annulled that law, President Vieira dissolved the Assembly, thus allowing the standing committee to continue working, and appointed a new government composed of loyalists.

Rear Admiral Bubo Na Tchuto tried to organize a coup on August 7, 2008, but the attempt was put down. Na Tchuto managed to escape the country. The attempted coup added to instability ahead of parliamentary elections. Gambia subsequently arrested Na Tchuto.[2] He later returned to Guinea-Bissau disguised as a fisherman, and took refuge at a UN compound. Although the UN agreed to surrender him to the government, Na Tchuto continued to reside in the compound. As a result of his return, security in the country was tightened, contributing to uncertainty and instability.

On April 1, 2010, soldiers entered UN offices and arrested Na Tchuto. The same day, more soldiers entered Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Júnior's residence and detained him on the premises. Simultaneously, forty military officers, including Zamora Induta, head of Guinea-Bissau's armed forces, were confined at an army base. Hundreds of the PM's supporters demanded his release. In response, the deputy army chief, Antonio Indjai, said: "If the people continue to go out into the streets to show their support for Carlos Gomes Junior, then I will kill Carlos Gomes Junior ... or I will send someone to kill him."[3][4]

The following day, the prime minister was taken to meet with the president where the president said: "I will not resign because I was democratically elected. I consider what happened on Thursday as an incident. The situation is now stable. I can assure you that institutions will return to their normal functions." The UN secretary general and other international powers condemned the move, while government ministers issued a statement saying "Members of government expressed their support and their attachment to the prime minister, and firmly condemned the use of force as a means to resolve problems." Tensions seemingly calmed, with President Sanha saying the coup attempt was "a confusion between soldiers that reached the government", and the UN Secretary General spoke about the PM's "detention and subsequent release."[5] Nevertheless, while members of the cabinet and the international community condemned the attempted coup and talked about the PM's release, reports still indicated that "renegade soldiers" had the prime minister "under guard."[6]

2011 attempted coup

After Army chief of staff General Antonio Indjai was reported arrested by the orders of navy chief Rear Admiral Jose Americo Bubo Na Tchuto,[7] his troops freed him as Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Júnior sought political asylum at the Angolan embassy. Indjai then said that his naval counterpart had been arrested. These events occurred while President Sanha had been in Paris, France for medical care.[8][9][10]

2012 coup

Main article: 2012 Guinea Bissau coup d'état

On 12 April 2012, the military took over the central district of the capital.[11] On 16 April, military leaders and a coalition of political parties announced the formation of a Transitional National Council,[12] under international pressure.

2019 Disputed Election

Main article: 2019 Guinea-Bissau presidential election

Presidential elections were held in Guinea-Bissau on 24 November 2019.

In the first round of voting, Domingos Simões Pereira led the field, with 40.13% of the vote. Incumbent president José Mário Vaz finished fourth in the first round of voting, failing to progress to the runoff.[13] According to the preliminary and final results published by the national commission of elections, Umaro Sissoco Embaló won the runoff vote against Simões Pereira, 54% to 46%. Simões Pereira continues to dispute the results.[14] Although neither the supreme court of Guinea-Bissau nor the parliament had given its approval for the official swearing-in ceremony, Sissoco Embaló had organized an alternative swearing-in ceremony in a hotel in Bissau to announce himself as legal president of Guinea-Bissau.[15] Several politicians in Guinea-Bissau, including prime minister Aristides Gomes, accused Sissoco Embaló of arranging a Coup d'état, although outgoing president Mário Vaz stepped down to allow Embaló to take power.[16]

Jose Mario Vaz was the President of Guinea-Bissau from 2014 until the 2019 presidential elections. For two decades Jose Mario Vaz was the first elected president who finished his five-year mandate. Umaro Sissoco Embaló was the winner of the election and he took office in February 2020. However he faced a last-minute stand-off with parliament before taking office. Embaló is the first president to be elected without the backing of the PAIGC.[17][18]

Executive branch

Main office-holders
Office Name Party Since
President Umaro Sissoco Embaló Madem G15 27 February 2020
Prime Minister Geraldo Martins Independent politician 8 August 2023

The president is elected by popular vote for a five-year term. The prime minister is appointed by the president after consultation with party leaders in the legislature.

Legislative branch

The National People's Assembly.

The National People's Assembly (Assembleia Nacional Popular) has 102 members, elected for four-year terms in multi-member constituencies.

Political parties and elections

Main articles: List of political parties in Guinea-Bissau and Elections in Guinea-Bissau

Presidential elections

Main article: 2019 Guinea-Bissau presidential election

CandidatePartyFirst roundSecond round
Domingos Simões PereiraAfrican Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde222,87040.13254,46846.45
Umaro Sissoco EmbalóMadem G15153,53027.65293,35953.55
Nuno Gomes NabiamAssembly of the People United73,06313.16
José Mário VazIndependent68,93312.41
Carlos Gomes JúniorIndependent14,7662.66
Baciro DjáPatriotic Front of National Salvation7,1261.28
Vicente FernandesDemocratic Convergence Party4,2500.77
Mamadú Iaia DjalóNew Democracy Party2,8130.51
Idrissa DjalóNational Unity Party2,5690.46
Mutaro Intai DjabiIndependent2,3850.43
Gabriel Fernando IndiUnited Social Democratic Party1,9820.36
António Afonso TéRepublican Party for Independence and Development1,0610.19
Valid votes555,34898.04547,82798.97
Invalid/blank votes11,1251.965,6941.03
Total votes566,473100.00553,521100.00
Registered voters/turnout761,67674.37761,67672.67
Source: CNE, CNE

Parliamentary elections

Main article: 2019 Guinea-Bissau legislative election

African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde212,14835.2247–10
Party for Social Renewal127,10421.1021–20
Madem G15126,93521.0727New
Assembly of the People United51,0498.475New
Patriotic Front of National Salvation13,9262.310New
Democratic Convergence Party9,8641.640–2
New Democracy Party9,0191.5010
Union for Change8,5351.4210
Resistance of Guinea-Bissau-Bafatá Movement6,9591.1600
African National Congress6,0051.000New
Patriotic Movement5,7560.960New
Movement for Development4,5420.750New
Guinean Patriotic Union4,4070.7300
Social Democratic Party2,8540.4700
Party of Justice, Reconciliation and Labor–Platform of Democratic Forces2,8490.470New
Guinean Democratic Movement2,7890.460New
Republican Party for Independence and Development2,6220.4400
Democratic Centre2,4440.410New
National Unity Party9580.160New
Democratic Party for Development8610.140New
Manifest Party of the People7550.1300
Valid votes602,38193.38
Invalid votes20,8273.23
Blank votes21,8773.39
Total votes645,085100.00
Registered voters/turnout761,67684.69
Source: CNE (1), CNE (2)

Judicial branch

The Supreme Court (Supremo Tribunal da Justiça) consists of nine justices, who are appointed by the president and serve at his pleasure. It is the final court of appeals in criminal and civil cases. Regional courts, one in each of the country's nine regions, are the first courts of appeal for sectoral court decisions, and hear all felony cases, as well as civil cases concerning more than $1,000. Below these are 24 sectoral Courts, presided over by judges who are not necessarily trained in the law, which hear civil cases under $1,000 and misdemeanor criminal cases.

Administrative divisions

Guinea-Bissau is divided in 9 regions (regiões, singular - região): Bafata, Biombo, Bissau, Bolama, Cacheu, Gabu, Oio, Quinara, and Tombali.

International organization participation



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  2. ^ "Rear-Admiral Jose Americo Bubo Na Tchuto, alleged leader of the coup plot foiled in Guinea Bissau on 6th of August arrested - President Joao Bernardo Vieira - Zimbio". Archived from the original on 2012-10-03. Retrieved 2010-04-01.
  3. ^ "Guinea-Bissau PM detained". Retrieved 10 August 2019.
  4. ^ "Leaders call on Guinea-Bissau to maintain democracy". CNN. 2 April 2010.
  5. ^ "Al-ManarTV:: Guinea-Bissau's PM Says He Will Not Resign after Mutiny 03/04/2010". Archived from the original on 2010-04-08. Retrieved 2010-04-03.
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  10. ^ Staff (27 Dec 2011). "Army foils coup attempt on tiny island of Guinea-Bissau". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
  11. ^ "Reports of Guinea Bissau coup". April 12, 2012. Retrieved 10 August 2019.
  12. ^ "Guinea-Bissau military leaders, political parties announce transitional council". CNN. 16 April 2012.
  13. ^ AfricaNews (2019-06-19). "Guinea Bissau presidential election to be held on November 24". Africanews. Retrieved 2021-02-11.
  14. ^ AfricaNews (2020-02-05). "Guinea Bissau ex-PM Embalo declared winner of runoff". Africanews. Retrieved 2021-02-11.
  15. ^ "Umaro Sissoco Embalo swears himself in as Guinea-Bissau president". BusinessLIVE. Retrieved 2021-02-11.
  16. ^ Welle (, Deutsche. "Em meio a contencioso judicial, Sissoco toma "posse simbólica" como Presidente da Guiné-Bissau | DW | 27.02.2020". DW.COM. Retrieved 2021-02-11.
  17. ^ "Guinea-Bissau's leader concedes election defeat".
  18. ^ "Guinea-Bissau country profile". BBC News. 2 March 2020.