The small island nation of São Tomé and Principe has lived some the most epic weeks in its politics since its independence in 1975. After its government suffered a censure measure by opposition parties on November 29, political tension reached its peak, as the measure was passed without the presence of MPs of the party that leads the minority government, ADI (Democratic Independent Action). In response, ADI convened a demonstration calling for early elections.
The President of the Republic, Dr. Manuel Pinto da Costa, convened the Council of the State seeking a mutual consensus from the opposition and the censured government, but this hope was dashed absolutely [pt]. Formal consultations reached their end after a number of meetings, and the President broke his silence on the night of December 4, formally removing the 14th Constitutional Government led by Patrice Trovoada by Presidential Decree (23/2012 Part I, Part II [pt]).
ADI convened a new protest for December 5th, on the same day that it received in its headquarters a letter from the President [pt] inviting the party to form the 15th constitutional government and appoint a new representative in 24 hours. The ADI considered this period too short and unjust [pt], and continued to advocate for early elections.
As Jornal Vitrina [pt] says, the opposition parties, Movement for the Liberation of São Tomé and Principe – Social Democratic Party (MLSTP/PSD) and the Party of Democratic Convergence (PCD) both maintain that the President acted prudently and within the parameters of the constitution, showing that both are “open to dialogue,” leaving in the hands of the party recently removed from government a possible solution to the political crisis reigning in the country.
Reactions from São Tomeans online took no time at all.
For Emílio Pontes, who lives in Angola, “the political crisis is hard to solve. But this was a predictable situation, after the legislative elections in 2010 (…) because in a democracy the majority governs,” as he explained in a newspaper article for Jornal Tela Non [pt]. This opinion is also shared by Gerhardt Seibert, specialist in São Tome and Príncipe linked to the Center of African Studies in Lisbon, who maintained in statement to RFI that the possible scenarios are early elections or the formation of a new government.
Emílio Pontes republished [pt] on Facebook an article in which he supports early legislative elections, to be conducted within 90 days as stipulated by the Electoral Law:
Assim sendo, para a clarificação da situação política actual de São Tomé e Príncipe e para o bem do país, que o poder seja devolvido ao povo para que, soberanamente ele decida quem o poderá governar nos próximos quatro anos, sem qualquer atropelo, rumo ao desenvolvimento.
As such, to clarify the current political situation of São Tomé and Principe and for the good of the country, power should be returned to the people so that the people decide for themselves who will govern for the next four years, without any infringement, towards the path of development.
On the other side sociologist Humbah Aguiar, before the announcement of the sacking of government, published a noted in which he put himself in the shoes of the President, saying “If I were Dr. Pinto da Costa” [pt]…
caso fosse legal a votação da “Monção de Censura”, caso fosse legal a eleição do novo Presidente d’Assembleia, caso não fizessem sentido as razões apresentadas pelos deputados do ADI; e caso as acusações que a oposição faz ao governo serem verdadeiras; Ai, claro, mas só aí, convocava, eleições antecipadas, pois, não faria sentido ter um parlamento que não fonciona, segundo os seu regulamentos, e um governo que não esteja a trabalhar, para o povo.
Eleições antecipadas porque, não faz sentido convocar um ou dois, partidos que não ganharam as eleições para formarem governo. (…) Em último caso, pedia ao ADI que indicasse, um novo Primeiro-ministro e, convidava-o à formar seu governo. Afinal, Patrice Trovoada não deve ser, a única pessoa do partido ADI que, pode ser, Primeiro-ministro.
In the case that the “censure motion” was legal, and in the case that the election of new President of the Assembly was also legal, and in the case that the arguments made by the ADI's MPs did not make sense, and in the case that the accusations made by the opposition against the government are true, ok, then of course, but only then, call early elections, as it does not make sense to have a parliament that does not function according to itself regulations and a government that is not working for the people.
Early elections because it does not make sense to call on one or two parties that did not win the [last] elections to form a government. (…) As a last resort, ask ADI to nominate a new Prime Minister and ask him to form his government. In the end Patrice Trovoada should not be the only person from ADI who can be Prime Minister.
If the ADI refuses to form a government, Pinto da Costa will have to invite the second-most voted party in the legislative elections of 2010, the MLSTP/PSD, to form the executive, especially if the other parties in parliament like the PCD, are willing to form a coalition. As a last resort either early elections will be held or a technocratic government is formed.
In response to the question posted on Facebook by DW Português para África – “What do you foresee in the immediate political future of São Tomé and Principe after the sacking of the government by President Manuel Pinto da Costa?” – the online audience did not forget the political situation lived by Guinea Bissau, a country that shares a colonial past, a history of political and military disagreements, and that in April was plunged into yet another political crisis, with a military coup d'etat that toppled the government.Meanwhile in the midst of the storm that threatens in São Tomé and Principe, a piece of good news emerges from the Transparency International perceptions of corruption survey this year: the country rose 28 places since last year, now in 72th place.