Democracy Adrift and the Trajectories of the Political Parties in São Tomé and Príncipe


Augusto Nascimento


Since 1990, within the framework of the representative democracy then endorsed in São Tomé and Príncipe, there has been open political competition between political parties. Representative democracy and parties are not realities averse to the prevailing cultural patterns on the islands. However, this does not mean that parties have a role consistent with the idealization, common among São Toméans, about what they should represent and do in a representative democracy. For example, the governance programs or even the number of militants are not always known. Nor do party programs, when made explicit, clearly distinguish the various parties.

Despite the openness to the creation of new parties, mainly presidential initiatives, the party landscape has been characterized by opposition between the two largest parties, the Movement for the Liberation of São Tomé and Príncipe, the historic independence party, and Independent Democratic Action , which in recent years has asserted itself as the dominant party.

In this text, in addition to the summary characterization of the functioning and performance of the parties – sometimes, one-man parties –, an attempt is also made to characterize the free and open political competition in which the parties have moved from 1990 to the present day. Factors undermining democracy are highlighted, for example, the growing political and social entropy, discouragement and the feeling of loss of determination of individual and collective futures, and even temptations of authoritarian drifts. Strictly speaking, perhaps more than the erosion of democracy, we are witnessing the decantation of disbelief in the country, which contaminates all political action.

Some politicians point out the need for changes in the parties, even for them to have a fruitful action, if not to achieve development, at least to contain impoverishment and greater social fissures. However, the hypothesis that parties will continue to replicate the practices and vices that lead to the gap between parties and society is more plausible, not to say accurate. Incidentally, the recent political history of the island highlights a set of purposes and actions, guided by acrimony and violence, averse to a minimum cohesion, which is why it is difficult to believe in overcoming the obstacles set for the pacification of political and social competition.


Sao Tome and Principe, democracy, political parties




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