- President Fradique de Menezes of São Tomé and Príncipe has decreed that local and legislative elections will be held in July and August, after government had been unable to follow the original election schedule.
Elections to the São Toméan parliament were originally slated for February this year. They were later rescheduled for April, and finally indefinitely postponed. Municipal elections should even be held in September last year, but were also subjected to repeated postponements.
The archipelago's President yesterday finally made a decision when the delayed polls were to take place, São Toméan media report today. In a decree issued in the presidential palace, President Menezes says "the implementation of regional and municipal elections is scheduled for 25 July 2010."
The next paragraph in the decree says that "the holding of legislative elections is scheduled for 1 August 2010." The announcement was read out in national radio and television news last night.
The presidential decree further makes it clear that the Head of State is the sole responsible for picking election dates. It addresses what he considers legal "misconceptions" of a believed need for the President to consult with political parties to define a feasible election day. This was not the case, President Menezes points out, in yet another round of conflicts between the São Toméan presidency and parliament.
Political leaders in São Tomé were preparing for discussions with the President to discuss an election date. According to the local newspaper 'O Parvo', the decree therefore came as "a surprise" to politicians.
The late election dates are conflicting with the election legislation of São Tomé and Príncipe, which foresees a maximum delay of four months after the four-year terms finalises.
But the National Electoral Commission had made it clear it would not be able to organise free and fair elections. The Commission was lacking funds, and the upcoming local and legislative polls were seen as extra expensive as there was a need for a modernised and updated electoral roll.
São Tomé and Príncipe since 1990 have been a functional multi-party democracy, were elections are widely seen to be both free and fair. Nevertheless, under President Menezes, the archipelago has experienced political instability with steadily changing governments due to a deeply-rooted conflict between the presidency and parliament.
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