Guinea-Bissau: The Everlasting Return To Institutional Instability – OpEd


By Paulo Gorjão

Similarly to Sisyphus — condemned to push a rock up a mountain, only to see it roll down time and again to the starting point as soon as the top was reached — Guinea- Bissau also appears doomed to repeatedly and everlastingly return to a state of institutional instability.

The reasons keep shifting according to circumstances, yet the crisis reoccurs cyclically, with profound negative consequences as regards to institutional stability and governability in Guinea-Bissau.

The recurring failure in managing and steering political differences through dialogue certainly has multifarious explanations, namely of a cultural and sociological nature. That said, we can add an additional one of political nature: the semi-presidential system which, in an adverse context such as in Guinea-Bissau, also contributes to fostering and exacerbating conflict.

Semi-presidentialism establishes two power centers, both of which are democratically legitimized by direct, secret and periodic universal suffrage. In absence of a solid capacity for dialogue and a consolidated democrat- ic regime, political conflict between the president and the prime-minister is almost inevitable.

To the long list of deep and difficult reforms in Guinea- Bissau’s agenda one should add yet one more: a review of the constitution towards adopting a presidential regime. This will not solve every single problem in Guinea-Bissau, but it will certainly help prevent and palliate some of them.

About the author:
*Paulo Gorjão, Researcher at Portuguese Institute of International Relations and Security (IPRIS)

Article published in Diário Económico (14 August 2015) and IPRIS as IPRIS Viewpoints 178 (PDF)


The Portuguese Institute of International Relations and Security (IPRIS) is a non-profit and independent NGO, based in Lisbon. IPRIS is an institution dedicated to research on issues of International Relations, with particular interest regarding Portuguese foreign and defense policies.

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