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Sao Tomé announces early elections

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Sao Toméan President Fradique de Menezes

«The Government Pact is to open a new path of harmony.»

Fradique de Menezes

afrol News, 10 December - President Fradique de Menezes of Sao Tomé and Principe has dissolved the National Assembly, announced early legislative election on 3 March and established a government coalition of national unity. Menezes had been pressured by the majority party MLSTP's boycott of parliamentary sessions.

President Menezes had to give into the claims of the Movement for the Liberation of Sao Tomé and Principe (MLSTP) and form a new government coalition of the nine parties represented in Parliament. After being elected new Sao Toméan President in August, Menezes had appointed a minority government coalition by the former opposition PCD and ADI, leaving the majority party MLSTP out.

The MLSTP had reacted to the power exclusion by abandoning the Parliament, thus blocking its sessions. The former governing party demanded a government to be based on the parliamentary majority, but did not push for early elections, where it fears it might loose its majority. Other parties had reacted with a demand for early elections.

President Menezes on Saturday presented a "Government Pact" between nine political parties, supposed to govern until the March elections. The new "Government Pact" would open a new "path of harmony," President Menezes told the press in Sao Tomé, urging all political leaders to "contribute with all they got" to reach this aim. 

Sao Tomé, marked by political stability and democracy since the introduction of multi-party elections in 1991, found the ongoing political power struggle inconvenient in a situation where major foreign investments were to assure "a new era", based on rich off-shore oil riches. Menezes, first trying to exclude the traditional MLSTP power block, saw no other solution than a path of national unity, according to local analysts.

The new "Government Pact" was also to embark on a profound reform process, making use of its broad representation. According to the Sao Tomé daily 'Téla Nón', it was to reform local and regional authorities, public institutions and revise the Constitution after the experienced political crisis. 

The earlier announced but not dated legislative elections had caused dispute among Sao Toméan political parties. Carlos Neves, leader of largest opposition party, the ADI, earlier said that, "with the abandonment of parliament by MLSTP lawmakers, the only way out was the dissolving of parliament and early elections".

MLSTP leader Manuel Pinto da Costa - president of Sao Tomé from independence in 1975 until multi-party elections in 1991 - on the other hand had told journalists that early elections in 2002, "would damage the national interests of Sao Tomé," The news agency Lusa reports. Da Costa had called for a government of national unity to be created. 

The forming of a majority "Government Pact" and the announcement of early elections in March thus was a compromise launched by President Menezes after he on Friday had held talks with political parties aimed at overcoming the political crisis. 

Immediately after the announcement of the new "Government Pact" President Menezes left for Taiwan, Belgium and Portugal, where he was to negotiate foreign investments and aid cooperation.

Source: Based on press reports and afrol archives

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