Monday, July 31, 2006

De Menezes Wins Re-Election By A Landslide

President Fradique de Menezes has won re-election as President of Sao Tome and Principe by a landslide, the Portuguese news agency Lusa reports this morning.

The news almost certainly means that his government won't cooperate with a U.S, Justice Dept. designed to learn if ERHC Energy made illegal donations to his campaign in 2002, and coupled with the same stance in Nigeria, could foreclose any possibility of an indictment against the company.

ERHC Energy (ERHE) stock was up $0.02 in morning trading to $0.43 on 456,117 shares of volume at 11:25 a.m. EST.

STP News: President Menezes crumples opposition for second 5-year mandate

Sao Tome, July 31 (Lusa) - President Fradique de Menezes rolled over opposition challenger Patrice Trovoada in Sao Tome and Principe's presidential election, winning a second term with an advantage of more than 20 points, electoral officials announced Monday.

Analysts suggested de Menezes' overwhelming victory in Sunday's peaceful vote could open the door to a period of political stability, following five years of political gridlock and short-lived governments led by the formerly dominant MLSTP party, in opposition since March legislative polls brought de Menezes' allies to power.

Senior electoral official José Carlos Barreiros announced provisional results of the presidential ballot after midnight Sunday, praising the "maturity and civic spirit" demonstrated by the islands' slightly more than 91,000 eligible voters.

There were no immediate reactions from either de Menezes or Trovoada, a former foreign minister and the son of former President Miguel Trovoada, who was backed by nine opposition parties, including the MLSTP.

Provisional results in the fourth competitive STP presidential poll since the islands opened to democracy in 1990 gave de Menezes a fraction more than 60% of the vote, Barreiros said.

Trovoada took nearly 36.6% and political independent businessman Nilo Guimarães less than 1%.

De Menezes, who purportedly made a fortune exporting cacao and importing cement before becoming president in 2001 with 56% of the vote, won in all island districts, but one, and in three of four foreign countries, including Portugal, where STP emigrants were allowed to cast ballots.

Nearly 37% of voters the impoverished archipelago of about 160,000 people, who anxiously await the start of oil operations in their promising Gulf of Guinea waters, abstained, Barreiros said.

The voting Sunday had run peacefully, he added, with only minor incidents and boycotts of the polls in four precincts where voters stayed away to press demands for roads, electricity and water.

Large numbers waited to the last hour of voting to cast ballots, gathering outside polling stations with their voting cards held aloft as a sign they awaited bids from campaign activists to sell their vote to the highest bidder.

During campaigning, both de Menezes and Trovoada centered their appeals on the issue of political stability.

The incumbent, blaming past policy failures on previous MLSTP- led governments, said a renewed five-year mandate would allow him to work in harmony with the newly elected government of Prime Minister Tomé Vera Cruz, whose MDFM-PCD coalition won the March legislative polls but fell short of an outright majority in the 55-seat parliament.

Trovoada, in contrast, blamed past gridlock on his opponent's penchant for "exacerbated presidentialism" and promised to work for consensus between the government, which controls a minority 23 seats in parliament, and his opposition party backers.

The two-island microstate is Africa's smallest and one of its poorest countries, but it straddles the Equator in the middle of the oil- and natural gas-rich Gulf of Guinea, having as neighbors oil- producing majors Nigeria, Angola and Equatorial Guinea.

US-based Chevron announced in May it had struck oil and gas, in still undetermined quantities, in the first exploratory well to be drilled in the Joint Development Zone (JDZ) Sao Tome shares with Abuja.

The islands and Nigeria have awarded six JDZ blocks since early 2005 after two auction rounds.



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