Sao Tome: African Union observers hail ‘peaceful, calm’ presidential elections

An African Union election observation mission in Sao Tome and Principe has hailed what it described in a preliminary report as the “peaceful and calm environment” in which Sunday’s second round of presidential elections in the archipelago took place.

“Despite the postponement and latent tensions following the controversial results of the first round, the second round of the presidential elections … took place in a peaceful and calm environment, based on a legal framework that broadly integrates international and continental standards,” the mission said in its first report on the elections, published late on Monday.

The mission congratulated the people of Sao Tome for their calm participation in the elections and their “commitment to democratic values”. It also congratulated political actors, the authorities, the National Elections Commission (CEN) and the security forces.

In the document, the mission – whose mandate was to monitor and report on the conduct of the second round of the presidential elections of 5 September – notes that the legal and institutional framework for elections in Sao Tome and Principe “lays the foundations for the organisation of elections that meet international and regional requirements and standards” but also “deplores the inadequacy of certain provisions of the electoral laws.”

In this regard, the AU mission cites the existence of difficulties with early voting, the fact that the deadlines for the second round of presidential elections “do not take into account the ups and downs of disputes over the results” and the ban on civil society participating in observation of the elections.

“There is no provision in the Sao Tome electoral code that authorises election observation by civil society,” the AU report notes. !The authorities should reflect on this aspect, especially since the Constitution recognises the right of Sao Tome’s people to participate in public life.”

The mission therefore calls on the archipelago’s authorities to allow civil society to observe elections in order to “strengthen the participation of citizens in public and political life” as well as recommending “the establishment of a permanent elections management body” for whose creation “technical and financial support” would be needed.

The AU mission deployed 22 observers in the country’s six districts, visiting 154 polling stations. Among the observations made, the report notes a “calm and peaceful” environment during voting and counting.

With regard to polling stations, the report notes that voting started on time “in almost all the polling stations visited at the opening” and that voting material “was available and in sufficient quantity.”

The AU mission also calls for a review of the legal framework regarding the date of the second round of elections in order to “avoid any situation of slippage in the electoral calendar” and for political actors to refrain from “any attitude that could affect political stability and put at risk the democratic achievements of the country” – a reference to the challenge relating to the first-round results that ended up delaying the second round. 

The mission’s members are to remain until 9 September to “continue to monitor post-election developments” and it is expected to issue a “more comprehensive final report on the process”.

Sunday’s second round saw Carlos Vila Nova elected president with 45,481 votes or 57.54%, beating Guilherme Posser da Costa, who obtained 33,557 votes or 42.46%, according to provisional results released on Monday by the CEN.