The centre-left coalition in Sao Tome and Principe will run for parliament on Sunday in disarray and could give up its fragile majority to the centre-right in this small, Portuguese-speaking archipelago, which is used to alternating elections and considered a model of parliamentary democracy in Africa.
Some 100,000 voters out of a population of 215,000 are called upon to renew the 55 deputies of the National Assembly for a four-year term, at the same time as regional and municipal elected officials.
Two major parties have been vying for the leadership of the country since its independence from Portugal in 1975: the Independent Democratic Action (ADI, centre-right) and the ruling Movement for the Liberation of Sao Tome and Principe-Social Democratic Party (MLSTP-PSD, centre-left).
In 2021, Santomeans elected an ADI president, Carlos Vila Nova, but the executive branch has been held primarily by the prime minister, in this case, Jorge Lopes Bom Jesus of the MLSTP, since a coalition of left-wing parties won the 2018 legislative elections.
A majority for the ADI and its allies on Sunday would therefore end a cohabitation at the top of the state. Even if the president only holds an honorary position, he can play the role of referee in the event of a very short majority of one coalition or the other.
If the parties of the left and centre had managed to come together in 2018 to defeat the ADI of Patrice Trovoada, former prime minister (2010-2012 and 2014-2018), they will run disunited on Sunday.
The gamble is all the more difficult as, with a majority of only one seat (28) in 2018 thanks to the support of a wing of the Democratic Convergence Party (PCD), the MLSTP of Mr. Lopes Bom Jesus can no longer count on this movement on Sunday, as the PCD has distanced itself.
The popularity of the head of government and his party has declined during his term in office. The man who had declared that he wanted to “fight corruption” during his investiture has since faced accusations of corruption against his party.
Patrice Trovoada, on the other hand, returned to the country in mid-September after an exile in Portugal since his defeat in 2018. He is a favorite of the opposition.
After 15 years of a Marxist one-party regime, Sao Tome and Principe opened up to a multi-party system in 1991.
Following several coup attempts, the last ones in 2003 and 2009, the parliamentary system was established and has allowed several alternations between the ADI and the MLSTP, the latter being a product of the former single party.