afrol News, 5 March - Sunday's legislative elections on Sao Tomé and Principe were supposed to solve the political deadlock between President Fradique de Menezes and his government on one side and the hitherto majority oppositional party on the other. Preliminary results however indicate the two political blocks will gain exactly the same numbers of parliamentary seats.
In December, Sao Toméan President Menezes 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 boycott of majority party Movement for the Liberation of Sao Tomé and Principe (MLSTP) of parliamentary sessions because it was ousted from government after Menezes taking power.
Menezes and the coalition group known as the MDFM/MPCD hoped Sunday's early elections would produce a victory for the pro-Menezes coalition and thus reassure the President's rights to name a government. The MLSTP hope the voters would repeat their confidence in the party and in this way confirm the party's claim the parliamentary majority could not be excluded from government. The elections however do not seem to have given an answer to the underlying question.
According to preliminary results published yesterday by the National Electoral Commission, it was already sure none of the blocks would gain a majority. The Commission's calculations concluded 23 parliamentary seats would go to the MLSTP and an equal number to the MDFM/MPCD coalition. The nine remaining seats would go to a third party, UE-Kedadji. The probable result of such a parliamentary composition will be the naming of a coalition government between the two blocks, analysts claim.
The MLSTP has already filed a complaint to the Electoral Commission over electoral fraud. The party claims President Menezes had campaigned for the MDFM/MPCD in the village of Folha Fedes on Sunday and demands the votes from that district should be withdrawn from the count. The President however told the Portuguese radio RDP "the Constitution does not hinder the involvement of the President" in the legislative election campaign and that he thus "lamented not having participated in the campaign."
On Thursday, MLSTP leader and Ex-Prime Minister Posser da Costa claimed that the MDFM/MPCD was spending "scandalous" amounts of foreign funds in its electoral campaign. Da Costa was quoted by the Portuguese news agency, Lusa, as saying he feared the MLSTP's traditional supporters could switch their votes "for a simple financial compensation". Lusa quoted MDFM/MPCD leader Patrice Trovoada as saying that money had been distributed to voters "but not to buy votes".
Although the questions raised in the election were of great importance to the constitutional situation of the small island state, voters' participation is reported to have been very low. No numbers have been published so far, but observers registered a low interest among the electorate on Sunday. This is probably due to the recent presidential elections (July 2001) and to the abstract issue behind the elections, mostly seen as a sluggish power struggle within the political elite of the country.