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Article by: Bradley Dubbelman
Published: 17 Aug 2011
|São Tomé and Príncipe election report|
First round Presidential election results
The series of elections were largely free and fair with no reports of irregularities. Despite three villages boycotting the first round in protest over poor living standards, the overall turnout was 66%.
São Tomé and Príncipe is a former Portuguese colony that gained independence in 1975 under the leadership of a left-wing nationalist movement, known as the Movement for the Liberation of São Tomé and Príncipe (MLSTP). Pinto da Costa led the party and was elected the island’s first President in 1975. He proceeded to establish a socialist one-party State under the MLSTP, until democratic reforms came about in 1988 that culminated in free elections in 1991.
Former ally of Pinto da Costa, Miguel Trovoada, an independent candidate, was elected President in 1991, and re-elected in 1996 after defeating the former President in a runoff poll. In a 2001 Presidential election, Fradique de Menezes, running for the ADI, won the poll, again defeating Pinto da Costa. The history of the sland’s politics has been characterised by a number of coups that have lead to 18 different Prime Ministers since democracy, with the most notable coup taking place in 2003 where the military revolted and toppled the government. They later struck a deal which saw greater military presence within the State's governing structures.
Economically, the island is largely dependent on agriculture, with cocoa the biggest export. Owing to its reliance on the crop, a global downturn in cocoa prices in the 1990s, as well as certain economical structural problems, severely affected the island’s economy. The country became reliant on food imports, owing to inadequate domestic supply, which increased poverty levels. As a result São Tomé and Príncipe qualifies for the International Monetary Fund’s Heavily Indebted Poor Countries initiative, designed to relieve countries experiencing high levels of debt through low interest loans and other mechanisms.
Prior to the recent elections, President Fradique de Menezes reached his term limit and was constitutionally barred from seeking another. The election was, thus, contested by ten candidates, representing different political parties or candidates standing as independents. In the first round Pinto da Costa received 35.82%, which is not an overall majority, which forced a runoff vote between him and second-placed Carvalho.
Pinto da Costa won the runoff with the support of Delfim Neves and Aurélio Martins, securing 52.88% of the vote. Carvalho, with the support of Prime Minister Patrice Trovoada, received 47.12%.
After being at the helm of the island nation between 1975 and 1991, Pinto da Costa returns to lead the island in a difficult time, with poverty at an all-time high and an unstable domestic and global economy. He has prioritised improving the economy and fighting corruption during his tenure. Pinto da Costa is expected to diversify the island’s economy by leveraging potential oil reserves and developing the tourism industry.
African Elections Database. Elections in São Tomé and Príncipe (August 10, 2011).
BBC News. São Tomé independence leader Pinto da Costa wins poll (August 8, 2011).
Angola Press. Former leader wins São Tomé election (August 10, 2011).
World Elections. São Tomé and Príncipe 2011 (August 01, 2011).