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UPDATE 1-Former Guinea Bissau PM Embalo wins presidential election

Alberto Dabo

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BISSAU, Jan 1 (Reuters) - Former Guinea-Bissau Prime Minister and ex-army general Umaro Cissoko Embalo won Sunday's presidential election with 54% of the vote, the electoral commission said on Wednesday.

Embalo, 47, who beat another former Prime Minister Domingos Simoes Pereira in a run-off vote, will succeed incumbent President Jose Mario Vaz, whose tenure was marred by political infighting, an ill-functioning parliament and corruption.

Embalo, who served as prime minister under Vaz from 2016-18, faces the difficult task of overcoming a long-running political impasse and modernising the West African country of 1.6 million people, which has suffered nine coups or attempted coups since independence from Portugal in 1974.

Pereira, from the ruling PAIGC party, had won easily the most votes in the November first round. But Embalo's candidacy gained support from the main contenders who failed to reach the run-off, including Vaz.

Other challenges facing Embalo include widespread poverty and an unstable political system in which the majority party appoints the government but the president has the power to dismiss it.

There have been seven prime ministers since Vaz took over in 2014 and political instability has hurt the economy, which depends heavily on volatile prices for cashew nuts, the main income source for more than two-thirds of households.

Traffickers also exploit Guinea-Bissau's unpoliced waters and maze of forested islands as shipment points for cocaine en route from South America to Europe. (Writing by Edward McAllister Editing by Louise Heavens)