São TomÉ and Príncipe - Leadership



During his first two years in office, de Menezes has shown himself energetic and courageous. He inherited an IMF-staff monitored program, the goals of which are likely to be met. He has traveled about the sub-region, to Taiwan and to Mozambique to establish strategic alliances. He has taken on vested elite political and financial interests by insisting on prosecution of allegedly corrupt high-level public officials. He has named a woman prime minister—the country's first.

The acid test for de Menezes will be to govern with a hung Parliament. Prior to the legislative elections, de Menezes managed briefly to unify a loose coalition of fractious parties into a single anti-MLSTP-PSD alliance. The coalition dissolved, however, over disagreements on selection rules for the prime minister, and turned the parliamentary elections into a three-way contest. When the votes were counted, no party obtained the minimum 28 seats required for an absolute majority in the 55-seat Parliament. The MLSTP-PSD took 24, the MDFM-PCD coalition took 23, and the Ue Kedadji coalition formed by the ADI, PRD, Uniao Nacional para Democracia e Progresso (UNDP), Codo, and Partido Popular do Progresso (PPP) took eight seats. Ue Kedadji was supported by Miguel Trovoada and his son Patrice. While the MDFM-PCD actually received more votes than the MLSTP-PSD, the latter won the proportional vote at the district level.

Under the country's semi-presidential system, the president must form a government with the opposition. The president's desire to revise the Constitution to give the head of state more power has collided with the Assembly's goal of reducing Executive authority. In the course of battle de Menezes fired his prime minister, dissolved the Assembly and called for new elections. Although he rescinded the latter decision, his critics in the Assembly have accused him of subverting democracy. De Menezes claims that lawmakers insulted him and refused to engage in dialogue.

The years ahead should provide more indicators of de Menezes's character and integrity. His fight with the Parliament to revoke the Nigeria oil deal has culminated in a new joint development zone, which crosses the sea border of the two countries where maritime resources are shared. The deal divides the resources on a 60/40 basis with Nigeria getting the larger share. He has declared that he will ensure that projected oil wealth is used to eradicate poverty–a promise still in the future. If de Menezes prosecutes former public servants and politicians found guilty of corruption, the trials could implicate the Trovoadas and other former leaders, leading to political scandal. With the MLSTP-PSD still the dominant 'independence' party, it remains unclear how much reform will be possible under de Menezes.

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