SAO TOME E PRINCIPE: Legislative elections on Sunday, 1998.11.6

SAO TOME E PRINCIPE: Legislative elections on Sunday, 1998.11.6

SAO TOME E PRINCIPE: Legislative elections on Sunday

Abidjan, 6 November 1998 (IRIN) - Voters in the two-island state of Sao Tome e Principe will be going to the polls on Sunday to choose a new parliament. Some 49,700 people are eligible to vote in the poll to elect 55 deputies to the national assembly.

Since multipartyism was introduced in 1991, the country has had six governments, an abortive military coup and a forum of national unity last March failed to end long-standing political differences, the Lisbon 'Diario de Noticias' daily said. According to AFP, it is hoped that the election will put an end to "a crippling period of instability marked by antagonism between the left-leaning coalition government and President Miguel Trovoada".

The coalition government consists of the former sole legal party, the Movimento de Libertacao de Sao Tome e Principe-Partido Social Democrata (MLSTP-PSD) and the Partido da Convergencia Democratica (PCD). The ruling MLSTP-PCD has 27 seats in the current national assembly and the PCD 14. The Alianca Democratica Independente (ADI), which holds 14 seats, is closely allied to Trovoada, who was re-elected as president in 1996.

The power struggle between president and government has blocked decisions on important political and economic issues, such as privatisation, 'Diario de Noticias' said. According to the 'Economist Intelligence Unit' (EIU) the president's wide and ill-defined powers have been a perpetual source of conflict. The forum's proposals for a revision of the constitution to clarify and curb presidential powers have not been followed through.

Meanwhile, the country is mired in one of its most serious economic crises since independence 24 years ago, AFP said. A French source quoted by the report said it was "totally dependent on international aid, even for food". Inflation is running at 80 percent, AFP said. In 1996, the total external debt was estimated at US$ 261 million, equivalent of 630 percent of GNP. According to the EIU, the IMF earlier this year rejected the country's application for debt relief because of its failure to implement most of the economic reforms recommended in 1997.

Nine parties are running in Sunday's elections. Media reports said the favourite to win is the MLSTP-PSD, led by the former president, Manuel Pinto da Costa. The party has launched a major restructuring since April, and an absolute majority would enable it to rule effectively and resolve the current political blockage. The PCD is also expected to benefit from its image as a party of change. The ADI, which backs the president, is another main contender.

Six other parties are also running. None have seats in the current legislature and some were only registered a month ago by the Supreme Court. These include the Uniao Nacional para a Democracia (UNDP - Grupo Boia Fria) led by the former mayor of Sao Tome, Paiao Lima, and the Partido Popular do Progresso (PPP).

All the parties have repeatedly urged voters to turn out in large numbers because none wish to see a repeat of the 1996 presidential election, when only 42 percent of registered voters went to the poll.

The Organisation of African Unity (OAU), the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries (CPLP), and Portugal will observe voting at all polling stations, AFP said. Results are due out on 16 November, it said.


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Date: Fri, 6 Nov 1998 15:08:54 +0000 (GMT) From: UN IRIN - West Africa <> X-Sender: Subject: SAO TOME E PRINCIPE: Legislative elections on Sunday, 1998.11.6 Message-Id: <>

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