Sao Tome: Governing party presidential candidate pledges ‘stability, governability’

Guilherme Posser da Costa, a candidate for president in Sao Tome and Principe, on Friday said that political stability and governability for the country would be the “hallmark” of his term as head of state, if he were elected on 18 July.

“I want it to be a mark of my term as President of the Republic: I will strive for political stability and governability,” said the candidate, who is backed by the governing Movement for the Liberation of São Tomé and Príncipe – Social Democratic Party (MLSTP-PSD) in an interview with Lusa in Lisbon.

“I will seek to be a president-arbitrator, who seeks consensus,” he went on. “I will be a president who will try to use dialogue to the limit to solve problems that may arise in the relationship between the different sovereign bodies, because I believe that the guarantee of political stability and governability are two fundamental conditions for us to be able to guarantee the tranquillity and confidence [that are] necessary both for our citizens and for our development partners, and even for attracting investment.” 

In the face of a “real political crisis” that might arise – in contrast to “many … which are only artificial crises, driven by partisan strategies” – he said, the country’s president should have “a proactive role”, promoting dialogue and transmitting “perfect knowledge of the powers of each of the organs.

“That is why my campaign slogan is ‘Harmony and Progress’,” he explained. “It is absolutely essential that there is greater social cohesion in order to create a broader climate of stability.” 

Posser da Costa, 67, is a former prime minister, minister of foreign affairs and Supreme Court judge, among other positions, has dedicated the last 20 years of his life to the practice of law. 

Among his declared priorities is also what he called a “true reform of justice” in the country, given that Sao Tome’s people “do not have much confidence in justice,” in his words. “They think that justice is still a bit discriminatory … and it is only for the poorest [to be convicted] and the richest manage to get through the justice system and continue to commit crimes with impunity.”

His proposals encompass two aspects: advisors for Sao Tome’s judges, particular retired experts from other Portuguese-language countries, and judicial inspection – “controversial but absolutely necessary”.

In a country in crisis and heavily dependent on foreign aid, Posser da Costa argued that this “is not an irreversible process” and that he wants to focus on “effective economic diplomacy” to improve the situation.

“In the exercise of my function and eventually in the contacts that I will establish with entities from other countries, [I want to] mobilise resources, particularly direct foreign investment for the development of those sectors where there is more likelihood of rapid development and that can provide more sustainable growth for our country,” he said, citing tourism, agriculture and fishing.

“Our economic development requires our full awareness that our geographical situation is propitious for us to transform Sao Tome and Principe into a country that provides services,” he said, stressing that the country needs to “gradually reduce the gap that exists” between its own resources and foreign aid.

After several days travelling around Portugal to meet members of the Sao Tome community in the country, he said that he had found one common denominator: “All would like to return, would like to live in their homeland, would like their country to have the conditions for them to have a healthy life and a better life in Sao Tome and Principe.”

Faced with cases of Sao Tome nationals who are experiencing difficulties in Portugal, Posser da Costa recognised that his country’s resources are limited but argued that “the Sao Tome state cannot continue to leave its emigrants, in Portugal or anywhere else, living in the conditions in which they are.

“This is where the role of the President of the Republic is extremely important and can be of paramount importance: through his influence and contacts with entities in the countries where our emigrants live, he can seek to find a framework” to help them – not with more privileges than other communities, but with special attention because Sao Tome, like Portugal, belongs to the Community of Portuguese-Language Countries (CPLP). 

“We belong to a community and we think that makes a bit of a difference,” he said.