Monday, March 27, 2006

Sao Tome Election Results Unaccountably Delayed

A top-ranking election official "unaccountably" failed to appear this morning to announce partial results for the Sao Tome and Principe parliamentary elections that occurred over the weekend.

The official's failure to launch came as a fax of uncertain origins said the centrist party of President Fradique de Menezes was confortably ahead of the left-wing MLSTP in a substantial number of seats.

Sao Tome has gone through enormous changes in its political mood over the past six months as the nation went from opposing most of the lucrative awards in the Nigeria-Sao Tome and Principe Joint Development Zone to celebrating the arrival of tens of millions of dollars in signature bonus fees paid for oil blocks by comapnies seeking a role there.

The money is based on a 40:60 split of such fees with Nigeria.

Here's one report from Dow Jones on the delay of results, followed by another from Lusa:

DJN: DJ Sao Tome Election Results Delayed For A Week By Boycotts
(Dow Jones 03/27 07:37:16)

SAO TOME, Sao Tome and Principe (AP)--Demonstrators protesting poor services
in Sao Tome and Principe kept thousands from voting in Sao Tome's weekend
presidential elections, officials said Monday.

The National Electoral Commission said polling in the affected districts,
where some 10,000 of Sao Tome's almost 70,000 voters were registered, would
be held April 2, a week after the rest of the nation voted. Results were to
be delayed until after the April 2 balloting.

The demonstrators protesting poor public sanitation, health care, roads and
unreliable or absent energy supplies erected barricades around polling
stations Sunday. Police didn't attempt to remove the barricades.

Sao Tome is hoping to reap benefits from the discovery of oil in its
territorial waters, but political instability has brought four governments
in the past five years and slowed plans to generate economic growth.

Sao Tome has a population of about 140,000 and is one of the world's poorest
countries, according to the U.N.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

And here's the Lusa story:

STP News: Political tension rises after election boycotts and delayed results

Sao Tome, March 27 (Lusa) - Political uncertainty mounted in Sao Tome and Principe Monday, following legislative elections that were marred by boycotts and an unexpected delay in the announcement of official partial results from Sunday's vote.

The head of the National Electoral Commission (CEN), José Carlos Barreiros, failed to appear, without explanation, at a morning news conference called to release partial tallies from the vote.

He was not immediately reachable for comment and was reportedly absent from the CEN's headquarters.

Barreiros called the Monday morning news conference to announce partial results late Sunday night, after saying the vote would be repeated next Sunday in 13 precincts where the election had been boycotted over local issues.

The CEN had originally set the release of partial electoral results for Sunday night.

The boycotts, apparently organized to protest the lack of roads, potable water and electricity, affected 13 precincts with about 10% of the islands' nearly 80,000-strong electorate, according to the CEN.

Adding to the uncertainty, visiting foreign journalists received a fax purportedly sent from the Attorney General's office Monday that showed opposition supporters of President Fradique de Menezes comfortably ahead of the governing MLSTP party with about half of the ballots counted.

According to the fax, whose authenticity could not be immediately confirmed, the Menezes-allied MDFM-PCD coalition had taken about 36% of the vote to nearly 29% for the MLSTP and better than 22% for the ADI party, a force linked to former President Miguel Trovoada.

The electoral boycotts Sunday, some involving the blockading of roads and the burning of tires, proceeded throughout election day despite an appeal from the president for voters to express their concerns in a "calm and civilized" way through the ballot box.

Menezes' chief political rival, the leader of the ruling MLSTP party, Guilherme Posser da Costa, convened what he called an "urgent" news conference Sunday to denounce the boycotts as a "sign of panic" from unnamed "adversaries" of his party.

Several of the boycotts, Posser da Costa charged, had affected traditional MLSTP strongholds.

The impoverished Gulf of Guinea islands, which await the beginning of a long-promised "Oil Era" from offshore exploration, has lived through a series of revolving-door governments since Menezes was elected as president in 2001.

Sao Tome and Principe's semi-presidential system of power- sharing has left decision-making structures gridlocked between the president and governments lead by the MLSTP, the largest party in the 55-seat parliament.

Presidential elections, which likely will see Posser da Costa challenge a second term bid by Menezes, are expected later this year.


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