Sao Tomé & Principe
Supreme Court tilts Sao Toméan political equilibrium

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afrol News, 20 March - The Supreme Court of Sao Tomé and Principe has decided to take note of a rerun in a small electoral district, thus making the former government party MLSPT the biggest party and official winner of the 3 March elections. 

The Movement for the Liberation of Sao Tomé and Principe (MLSTP) had originally obtained 23 parliamentary seats, equal to the MDFM (Democratic Movement of Forces for Change) political block, supported by President Fradique de Menezes. The Supreme Courts ruling however changed this uncomfortable deadlock, giving 24 parliamentary seats to the MLSTP. The seat was taken from a third party, UE-KEDADJI, which reduced its representation from 9 to 8 seats.

These final, official results were announced yesterday by the President of the Supreme Court at a press conference in the capital, Sao Tomé. 

The preliminary results, creating the deadlock, had been taken for granted by the political parties until now. They had thus started negotiating for a coalition government dominated by the MDFM. With the Supreme Court ruling, it is now clear that the MLSTP will take the lead in the forming of the new government.

The MLSTP has already indicated it wants to see its own candidate, Gabriel Arcanjo da Costa, as head of the future government. Making this statement, the party is pressuring President Menezes, who insists it is within his constitutional powers to name the government. 

In fact, this had been the baseline questions in the early elections of Sao Tomé and Principe. After President Menezes was elected in July last year, he sought to install an MDFM government, referring to the Constitution saying this is his domain. The MLSTP, being the traditional ruling party on the islands however, had the absolute parliamentary majority and used this to block Parliament sessions as a response to being chased from government office.

The early elections were to decide whether President Menezes would have a popular vote to install the government he pleased or if the MLSTP could use its parliamentary basis to demand representation in government - a classic power struggle between the legislative and executive. 

The preliminary results were a great disappointment to those wanting a clear decision on the power struggle; only 68 single votes differentiated the two blocks, giving 23 seats to each of them. The deadlock was deepened and a political compromise was sought. Negotiations between MLSTP and MDFM pointed towards a government coalition were the two parties would decide upon the majority of ministerial posts, but leave the Prime Minister decision to President Menezes. 

After the Supreme Court ruling, the MLSTP has regained the upper hand in the power struggle. It is now expected that the next Prime Minister will come from its ranks. In principle, therefore, President Menezes seems to have lost the power struggle. De facto, however, the MLSTP has lost its absolute majority in Parliament and will now have to cooperate with the political block close to the President.

The upcoming coalition government will not have an easy task as the two blocks are split by strongly dividing policies. While the MLSTP has a history of Marxism, though tuned down to modern leftism, the MDFM and President Menezes are economic liberalists.

Source: Based on RDP, MLSTP and afrol archives

© afrol News.

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