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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - BISSAU - Voters in Guinea-Bissau cast their ballots in a presidential runoff Sunday with the hope of ending months of political turmoil in the coup-prone West African state that is one of the world's poorest nations.
Some 700,000 registered voters have a choice between two former prime ministers -- Domingos Simoes Pereira, from the traditional ruling PAIGC party, and opposition figure Umaro Sissoco Embalo.
Both are promising a better economic future in a young country wracked by poverty, instability, high unemployment and corruption.
Incumbent Jose Mario Vaz crashed out of the race in the first round in November -- becoming the first elected president in 25 years to reach the end of his mandate without being ousted or dying in office, in a country where the military has loomed large in politics.
Polling stations, often set up in the open air, opened at 0700 GMT.
"This is the most important day. We want everything to go well," said Dominique Zale, a security guard and father-of-six who spoke to AFP at a polling station near the port in the capital Bissau, where voters started lining up before dawn.
"We must vote to change things. The next president will have the mission to make the country work," said 31-year-old Jair Fernandes Martins, at a nearby polling station.
Nearly 70 percent of Guinea-Bissau's 1.8 million people lives on less than $1.90 a day and the country ranks 178th out of 189 on the UN Human Development Index.
The small tropical country gained independence from Portugal in 1974, but has suffered a string of military coups, attempted coups and political assassinations ever since.
After the latest coup in 2012, the West African regional bloc ECOWAS deployed a nearly 700-member force to try to stabilize the fragile nation.
A member of the European Union election observation team expressed cautious optimism that the military would not disrupt the political process this time.
"The soldiers are quiet. I hope that this will continue, but we will see after the results are announced," they said.
Polls close at 1700 GMT and the results are not expected until next week. -AFP
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