Sao Tome – The centre-right opposition won legislative elections in Sao Tome and Principe off Africa’s western coast, the poll commission said on Tuesday, but it was not clear if there would be a smooth handover of power.
Voters were called to choose members of the national assembly for four years, along with regional and municipal leaders.
A former Portuguese colony in the Gulf of Guinea, the island nation of 215 000 people is deeply poor and depends on international cooperation and aid for 90 percent of investments –but it is considered a rare model of parliamentary democracy in Africa.
Two major parties have jostled to run the country since independence in 1975: the Movement for the Liberation of Sao Tome and Principe-Social Democratic Party (MLSTP-PSD), which had a tiny majority before the vote on Sunday, and the right-wing Independent Democratic Action party (ADI).
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The commission said ADI “won the legislative elections with a total of 36 549 votes”, state news agency STP-Press quoted it as saying.
Prime Minister Jorge Lopes Bom Jesus’s MLSTP-PSD “came in second place, with 25 531 votes”, according to the commission. The abstention rate was 34.33 percent.
But it is up to the constitutional court to distribute the parliament’s 55 seats between the parties and it had not done so by Tuesday evening.
This means it is not yet possible for a coalition to form to lead the archipelago.
Ex-prime minister Patrice Trovoada, who leads the ADI, said his party was guaranteed 30 seats, but this was immediately challenged by MLSTP-PSD.
The ruling party said that with 22-24 seats guaranteed, it could count on eight or nine seats from two smaller left-wing groups to keep its majority.
Parliamentary democracy took a long time to come to Sao Tome and Principe, which was ruled for 15 years as a Marxist one-party state by the MLSTP that had opposed the Portuguese regime.
Once a constitutional referendum to introduce multiparty politics and a limit of two terms for the president was approved by more than 95 percent of voters in 1990, democratic elections were held.
The civil authorities withstood military coup bids in 2003 and 2009.