afrol News, 1 July - A total of six candidates have been registered to the 29 July presidential elections in Sao Tomé and Principe as the deadline for registration passed on Friday. The National Election Commission is on schedule in the election preparations.
Sao Tomé and Principe is definitively entering pre-election times. The electoral campaigns officially first are to begin in two weeks, but political and logistical preparations are advancing rapidly.
The President of the National Election Commission (CED), Fernando Makengo, these days has announced that the voter list had been completed. 67,371 islanders are registered as qualified to vote - a national record. Makengo yesterday also announced the final list of the six presidential candidates, comprising several prominent names.
Among the favourites is Manuel Pinto da Costa, who yesterday obtained the support by the leftist Liberation Movement of Sao Tomé e Principe (MLSTP-PSD) ruling party. At the extraordinary MLSTP-PSD party congress, it was opened for several candidates from the party, but official support was to go to Pinto da Costa. Another MLSTP-PSD candidate, the President of the Sao Toméan Parliament Francisco Fortunato Pires, did not obtain his party's logistical support, but was not discouraged to run for the presidential office.
65-years-old incumbent President Miguel Trovoada is not a candidate at the elections, as he is already serving his second term. Trovoada's centrist party, the Independent Democratic Action (ADI), is the largest opposition party in the Sao Toméan parliament after the MLSTP-PSD won 31 of the 55 seats in the 1998 elections.
On the last day, also opposition candidates Carlos Tiny and Fradique de Menezes registered their candidature. Another principal opposition party , the Party of Democratic Groups (PCD-GR), did not promote any particular candidate. The only military candidate is Vítor Monteiro. No women have registered as candidates to the presidency.
CED President Makengo expects an orderly held electoral campaign. He told the Portuguese radio RDP/África that the campaign was to start on 15 July and to stop exactly 48 hours before the actual poll. Makengo expected "tolerance and a constructive debate" from the six candidates during the campaign.
Sao Tomé well managed
Voter participation has exceeded 80 percent in all Sao Toméan elections since democracy was introduced, demonstrating this small country's (population: 135,000) interest for politics. Except for a short-lived military mutiny in 1995, Sao Tomé and Principe generally has experienced political tranquillity and economic growth during Trovoada's ten years of governance.
Miguel Trovoada will leave his office with a Sao Tomé in a well-managed shape. A pluralist democracy has taken firm roots and the economy is in its blossom. This year, a four percent growth is foreseen. The recent discovery of offshore oil, to be exploited together with Nigeria, further are set to make the forthcoming presidential term a rewarding task. Welfare on the small island state is believed to increase significantly - if the new resource is properly managed.