afrol News, 6 August - After the presidential elections in Sao Tomé and Principe on 29 July, Fradique de Menezes has emerged as the winner, having obtained 56.31 percent of the votes. Opposition politician Menezes takes over for President Miguel Trovoada on 3 September.
Last week, the president of the Sao Toméan National Election Commission (CED), Fernando Makengo, announced the official results of the presidential elections on national radio and TV. The clear victory for Menezes ruled out any doubt and protest. Menezes is to take over for incumbent President Trovoada, who had served his two terms and therefore did not stand for re-election.
Fradique de Menezes had obtained the support of President Trovoada's centrist party, the Independent Democratic Action (ADI), which is the largest opposition party in the Sao Toméan parliament. The Sao Toméan electorate thus chose continuity in policy and in the power-split between the dominant party in Parliament, the leftist Liberation Movement of Sao Tomé e Principe (MLSTP-PSD), and the Presidency.
Businessman Menezes had focused his campaign on the fight against bureaucracy. He thus managed to get ahead of the initial favourite to win the elections, leftist Manuel Pinto da Costa. Pinto da Costa had obtained the outspoken and logistical support from the governing MLSTP-PSD in June. However, he only managed to obtain 38.73 percent of the votes, second to Menezes.
The other three candidates were totally marginalized by Menezes and da Costa. Opposition candidates Carlos Tiny and Victor Monteiro obtained respectively 3.29 and 1.01 percent of the votes. The second candidate of governing MLSTP-PSD, President of the Sao Toméan Parliament Francisco Fortunato Pires, obtained a mere 0.65 percent of the votes.
Voters' turnout was at an all-time-low, with only 62.35 percent of the electorate participating in the poll. This is contrasted by the usual turnout of over 80 percent in Sao Toméan elections.
Although Menezes in general put up a positive electoral campaign, two controversial issues were touched. There were some doubts whether he was eligible due to his nationality. Born in Sao Tomé, Menezes had later acquired a Portuguese citizenship, which he renounced earlier this year to again become a Sao Toméan citizen. The Supreme Court demanded proof of his nationality, but he was later approved as a legitimate candidate.
More fuss followed Menezes' statement in an interview with the Portuguese radio RDP/África, where he claimed corruption did not exist on Sao Tomé. Dissidents took his statement as proof that Menezes himself formed part of the "web of the corrupt ones". There was, however, not presented any proof in that direction. The statement still created an element of doubt whether anyone not taking "the widespread corruption on Sao Tomé" seriously would be fit to be President.
Interviewed by RDP/África after his victory was confirmed, President-elect Menezes reaffirmed his will to work hard to eradicate poverty and stimulate the economic development of his small island nation (population: 135,000) when he takes over as President on 3 September.
Menezes will find the best conditions to fulfil his promises. Under President Trovoada's ten years of power, Sao Tomé embarked on a positive political and economic development. Sao Tomé and Principe has been a multiparty democracy since 1991, when free and fair presidential elections brought President Trovoada to power. All the following elections have also been reported to be free and fair.
Also the economy is reported to be 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 Menezes' presidential term a rewarding task. Welfare on the small island state is believed to increase significantly - if the new resource is properly managed.