The ruling Liberation of São Tomé and Principe/Social Democratic Party won regional and municipal elections held in July 2010, while the opposition Independent Democratic Action (ADI) party captured the most seats in the August parliamentary elections. ADI leader Patrice Trovoada was appointed prime minister, though his party did not hold an absolute majority in the National Assembly. In January, President Fradique de Menezes pardoned one of the two people convicted in connection to an alleged coup plot uncovered in February 2009.
São Tomé and Principe gained independence from Portugal in 1975. President Manuel Pinto da Costa’s Movement for the Liberation of São Tomé and Principe—later the Movement for the Liberation of São Tomé and Principe/Social Democratic Party (MLSTP-PSD)—was the only legal political party until a 1990 referendum established multiparty democracy. Former prime minister Miguel dos Anjos Trovoada returned from exile and won the first democratic presidential election in 1991. He was reelected for a final term in 1996.
Fradique de Menezes, backed by Trovoada’s Independent Democratic Action (ADI) party, won the 2001 presidential election. In 2003, a group of military officers briefly ousted Menezes, but he was returned to power one week later.
The Force for Change Democratic Movement-Liberal Party (MDFM-PL), in coalition with the Democratic Convergence Party (PCD), captured more seats than any other party in the 2006 parliamentary election. While peaceful protesters had prevented thousands from voting in several parts of the country, a rerun for affected districtswas subsequently held without incident. Negotiations on the formation of a new coalition government led to the appointment of a new prime minister, MDFM leader Tomé Soares da Vera Cruz. In the July presidential elections, Menezes was reelected to a second term.
Following growing criticism over price increases and the handling of a police mutiny in 2007, the government collapsed twice in 2008. A new ruling coalition was formed in June with Joaquim Rafael Branco, leader of the MLSTP-PSD, as prime minister. The ADI refused to join, but the government gained a majority of seats in the National Assembly.
Eighteen individuals were brought to trial in October 2009 for their involvement in an alleged coup plot uncovered in February. Two of the defendants were convicted on charges of illegal weapons possession, including Arlecio Costa, the leader of the Christian Democratic Front, an opposition party. Costa received a five-year prison sentence, but was pardoned by the president in January 2010.
The MLSTP-PSD won regional and municipal elections held in July 2010, though the opposition ADI gained control over two of the largest districts.In the August parliamentary elections, the ADI received 43 percent of the vote and captured 26 seats. The MLSTP-PSD won 21 seats and the PCD took 7, while the president’s MDFM-PLcaptured only 1 seat. Approximately 90 percent of the nearly 80,000 registered voters cast ballots. The Supreme Court validated the results and ADI leader Patrice Trovoada was appointed prime minister.
Large oil and natural gas deposits are thought to lie off the nation’s coast. A 2001 agreement with Nigeria created the Joint Development Zone (JDZ), which provides São Tomé and Principe with 40 percent of oil and gas revenues.However, corruptionallegations have surrounded the process by which exploration blocks in the JDZ are awarded, and bonus funds intended for São Tomé’s oil account were allegedly transferred to a Nigerian bank in 2008.Despite its potential wealth, the country faces serious poverty; São Tomé and Principe ranked 127 out of 169 countries in the 2010 UN Development Programme’s Human Development Report. Donor aid constitutes almost 80 percent of the country’s revenue.