Previous National Assembly Election Results.
|Political Party||Election Year|
|Movement for the Liberation of São Tomé and Príncipe – Social Democratic Party (MLSTP-PSD)||21||27||31||24|
|Force for Change Democratic Movement – Liberal Party (MDFM-PL)||n/a||n/a||n/a||23|
|Democratic Convergence Party – Reflection Group (PCD-GR)||33||14||8||23|
|Independent Democratic Action (ADI)||n/a||14||16||*|
|Opposition Democratic Coalition (CODO)||1||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|Uê Kédadji (UK)||n/a||n/a||n/a||8|
Note. * The Independent Democratic Action (ADI) was in coalition with the Uê Kédadji in the 2002 election
2006 National Assembly Election Results.
|Party||Parties in coalition||% of votes||Seats|
|MDFM-PCD coalition:||Force for Change Democratic Movement–Liberal Party (MDFM)||36,79||23|
|Democratic Convergence Party-Reflection Group (PCD)|
|Movement for the Liberation of São Tomé and Príncipe – Social Democratic Party (MLSTP-PSD)||29,47||20|
|Independent Democratic Action||20||11|
|New Way Movement||4,71||1|
|Uê Kédadji coalition:||Democratic Renovation Party|
|National Union for Democracy and Progress|
|Opposition Democratic Coalition|
|People's Party of Progress|
|Social Renewal Party|
|São Toméan Workers Party|
|Christian Democratic Party|
Union of Democrats for Citizenship and Development
The islands of São Tomé and Príncipe are situated in the equatorial Atlantic region off the north-west coast of Gabon. The two islands consist of land on an extinct volcanic mountain range. The main island of São Tomé is considerably bigger than its sister island Príncipe, and is the hub of most of the island's economic activity. The islands boast a small population with 137 500 inhabitants on São Tomé and just 5 000 on Príncipe.
São Tomé and Príncipe was originally a Portuguese colony, which is evident through its legal and administrative structures. Further, Portuguese is the most widely spoken language and a rich Portuguese culture is evident throughout São Toméan society.
Throughout the early twentieth century, a system of institutionalised slavery was applied to São Toméan society through what was known as the roças system. Although Portugal officially abolished slavery in 1876, the roças system meant that wealthy colonial landlords possessed the means of production to extract cocoa, the island's largest exported commodity. The roças system gave the landlords a high degree of authority and lead to abuse and exploitation of the indigenous labourers. The system incited sporadic incidents of unrest over working conditions and poor wages by the working class, which eventually culminated in an outbreak of a series of riots in 1953, leading to the death of hundreds of labourers in clashes with the Portuguese authorities. The incident became known as the "Batepa Massacre" and is still remembered and observed by the São Toméan government.
By the late 1950s, catalysed by the Batepa Massacre, small pockets of liberation movements against Portuguese colonial rule began to emerge in the islands. The most significant of these was the establishment of the Movement for the Liberation of São Tomé and Príncipe (MLSTP), which established its base in Gabon. With an external base, and a rise in anticolonial sentiment, the MLSTP gained momentum and support in the 1960s and 1970s. With the eventual overthrow of the Salazar and Caetano dictatorship in Portugal in 1974, the incoming regime moved quickly on its policy to dissolve its overseas colonies, including São Tomé and Príncipe.
In November 1974, representatives from the MLSTP and the newly formed Portuguese government met in Algiers and worked out the terms of the islands' sovereignty. After a brief period of transitional governance, São Tomé and Príncipe eventually achieved their independence on July 12, 1975, with Manuel Pinto do Costa (MLSTP secretary-general) as the first President.
Up until the early 1990s, São Tomé and Príncipe was effectively a single-party State run by the MLSTP. However, to its credit, the islands were one of the first countries in Africa to adopt democratic reforms. Measures that brought changes to the Constitution include the unbanning of opposition political parties, which effectively brought the onset of free, fair and nonviolent elections in 1991.
The 1991 National Assembly elections saw The Party of Democratic Convergence (PCD) topple the ruling MLSTP regime to take the majority of seats. The PCD won 33 seats, while the MLSTP won 21. Although the MLSTP lost control of government, it became an important minority voice and remained politically active. Former Prime Minister Miguel Trovoado returned from exile to be the islands first democratically elected President.
With the MLSTP winning a majority of municipal elections and thus claiming a majority of regional councils, early elections were called by the authorities to take place in October 1994. The early legislative poll saw the MLSTP once again reclaim governance of the National Assembly with 27 seats. The remaining 28 seats were shared equally between the PCD and the newly formed Independent Democratic Action Party (ADI).
The 1998 Legislative elections saw a similar pattern to that of the poll that took place in 1994. The MLSTP not only maintained power in the National Assembly, but also increased their majority by four seats to 31 in total. The PCD were the big losers, as their total number of seats dropped from 14 to eight. The ADI won two seats to occupy a total of 16.
The 2002 elections saw a move toward coalition politics with the PCD, and the newly formed Force for Change Democratic Movement (MDFM), creating an alliance in an attempt to challenge the majority enjoyed by the MLSTP in the National Assembly. Consequently, the elections were a lot more competitive, with the MLSTP edging the newly formed alliance by a single seat to take 24 seats. The PCD aligned itself with a new party, known as Uê Kédadji, to take eight seats in the National Assembly. The fact that no single party gained an absolute majority of seats meant that a coalition government was formed to run the islands.
2003 Coup and Political Instability
July 2003, saw an attempted coup d état by certain members of the military and the Christian Democratic Front (comprised mainly of São Toméan volunteers from the South African apartheid-era army). The coup, however, was quelled through international mediation spearheaded by an American delegation.
The aftermath of the attempted coup, however, ushered in a period of political instability on the islands. In September 2004, the incumbent President, Fradique de Menezes, dismissed the Prime Minister and appointed a new Cabinet. The new Cabinet was approved by the National Assembly and sworn into power shortly thereafter.
In June 2005, the MLSTP and its coalition threatened to resign from the National Assembly after growing public discontent over oil exploration licences in the Joint Development Zone (JDZ) with Nigeria prompted the ruling party to threaten early elections. In the days that followed, Menezes agreed to form a new government and to avoid early elections. Notably the new government included the well-respected Maria Silveira, as Prime Minister and Finance Minister, as well as being the head of the Central Bank.
The 2006 Legislative elections were held without any glitches and were well contested and ushered in a new government. President Menezes' party, the Force for Change Democratic Movement (MDFM) along with its ally the Democratic Convergence Party (PCD) gained control of the National Assembly with 23 seats. The MLSTP came in second with 20 seats, followed by the Independent Democratic Action with 11 seats and the New Way Movement with a single seat. A new coalition government was consequently formed.
With worsening economic conditions and increasing public discontent, a series of government shake ups occurred without violence. The reshuffling of Cabinet and the resignation of two Prime Ministers indicated that stability and factionalism was rife within government. As a result, the São Toméan government collapsed on March 20, 2008, after losing a Parliamentary vote of no confidence. The vote forced President Menezes to appoint Joaquim Rafael Branco as the new Prime Minister in June 2008.
Type of Government
The new Constitution promulgated in 1990, means that São Tomé and Príncipe is a multiparty democracy. The National Assembly is unicameral and is the supreme organ of the State. The Assembly consists of 55 members that are elected in seven multimember constituencies, known as regional councils, using the party list proportional system. Members serve a maximum of four years.
The executive branch consists of a President (currently Fradique De Menezes), a Prime Minister (currently Joachim Rafael Branco) who is chosen by the National Assembly and approved by the President. A Council of Ministers is appointed by the President on the proposal of the Prime Minister. The President is elected by popular vote to serve a five-year term. The next Presidential elections are scheduled for July 2011.
São Tomé and Príncipe, being heavily reliant on cocoa as its main export, has run into economic turbulence in recent times. Owing to inadequate domestic food production being unable to meet local consumption, there is a need for foreign imports. However, as a result to the slump in the cocoa price, São Tomé and Príncipe experienced a massive balance of trade deficit, forcing the island's government to take on large quantities of debt from foreign entities like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), as well as from foreign donors such as the US and Portugal.
In 1987, São Tomé and Príncipe undertook and implemented an IMF Structural Adjustment Programme, which brought about sweeping economic reforms to São Toméan society, bringing greater measures of privatisation in the financial sector, as well as in the sectors of agriculture and tourism. The reforms, however, did little to alleviate the large debt the country faced, and São Tomé and Príncipe became increasingly reliant on foreign aid.
In December 2000, São Tomé and Príncipe qualified for the IMF's Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative, which allowed the organisation to grant greater loans to the country with greater monitoring capabilities and mechanisms to allow them to pay back these loans. These loans, however, did little to reduce the poverty levels on the islands, which subsequently led the IMF to approve a three-year $4,3-million Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) programme in 2005. The programme is designed to balance trade deficits, reduce inflation and substantially reduce poverty. Another PRGF programme was approved in March 2009.
The Joint Development Zone
In 2001, the São Toméan and Nigerian governments reached an agreement to explore for petroleum in waters owned by the two countries. After lengthy negotiations between the two countries, a deal was eventually reached and the Joint Development Zone (JDZ) was opened for bids to international oil corporations. The JDZ was divided into nine blocks with the highest bidder claiming the block of their choice. The deal was structured in a way that Nigeria would take 60% of the bidding price, with São Tomé and Príncipe taking a 40% proportion.
Firms such as Chevron, ExxonMobil and Equity Energy were the successful bidders for block one with a bidding price $123-million. Block two through to six were allocated in 2005 and Chevron was the first firm to begin exploratory drilling in 2006.
Despite the economic uncertainty and instability over recent decades, São Tomé and Príncipe has a great deal of economic potential. With a growing tourism sector and the creation of the JDZ, the islands have the opportunity to repay debt and lift the São Toméan society out of poverty. The move away from the reliance on cocoa and toward a more diversified economic profile will allow the islands to be more resilient to market shocks, as well as improve its trading imbalances.
Politically, the islands have a vibrant and resilient democracy. Despite the poor economic conditions, which often lead to political instability, São Tomé and Príncipe has been able to maintain a high level of political participation, a commitment to the rule of law and a peaceful and transparent election record. The real challenge lies with the country's political leaders to translate prospective economic gains into tangible results by lifting society out of poverty. The upcoming legislative elections promise to be exciting and competitive with very little to choose between the MDFM and the MLSTP.
CIA World Factbook. São Tomé and Príncipe. (February 2, 2010).
Encyclopedia of the Nations. São Tomé and Príncipe: Political Parties. (February 1, 2010).
IFES. Election Profile for São Tomé and Príncipe. (February 1, 2010).
IFES. São Tomé and Príncipe election results. (February 1, 2010).
IFES. São Tomé and Príncipe: Country Profile (February 1, 2010).
US Department of State. Background Note: São Tomé and Príncipe. (February 2, 2010).