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Guinea-Bissau Supreme Court rejects challenge to presidential election result

FILE PHOTO: Umaro Cissoko Embalo chats with supporters and members of his presidential campaign team after the results of the first round of the election, held on November 24, in a hotel lobby in Bissau, Guinea-Bissau, November 27, 2019. REUTERS/Christophe Van Der Perre/File Photo

BISSAU (Reuters) - Guinea-Bissau’s Supreme Court on Sunday rejected a challenge against Umaro Cissoko Embalo’s victory in last month’s election run-off by the defeated candidate, who complained of fraud.

The ruling confirms a surprise election win for Embalo, a 47-year-old former prime minister and ex-army general. He will replace outgoing Jose Mario Vaz, who was eliminated in the first round of voting in November after a five-year term marked by political dysfunction and corruption allegations.

The court’s ruling said runner-up Domingos Simoes Pereira, the candidate of the majority party in parliament, should have first filed his complaint with the national electoral commission, which declared Embalo the winner with 53% of votes.

Pereira said the Dec. 29 election was marred by fraud, alleging that votes surpassed the number of enrolled voters at some polling places.

The electoral commission denied this, and African observers praised the election.

Vaz is the first Guinea-Bissau president to have completed a full term since independence from Portugal in 1974. In that time, the country has seen nine coups or attempted coups.

Reporting by Alberto Dabo; Writing by Aaron Ross, Editing by Timothy Heritage