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Coalition of Three Major Parties Forms New Government in Sao Tome

  • Brent Latham

Led by a new prime minister, a new governing coalition has formed in Sao Tome and Principe. The formation of the new government ends a period of flux after the previous government was dissolved last month. For VOA, Brent Latham has more from our West and Central Africa bureau in Dakar.

The new prime minister, Rafael Branco, completed prolonged negotiations to form the government, bringing on board the conservative Democratic Force for Change party.

Added to the coalition formed by Branco's Sao Tome Liberation Movement and the Democratic Convergence Party, or PCD, the coalition now controls a clear majority in the National Assembly.

With a parliamentary majority, the new government should be able to move the country forward, says Rafael Braganca, president of the PCD.

Braganca says because the new government represents the majority, the people hope that it will work to reduce the great challenges that the nation faces.

He says this includes diversifying the economy, which is based on falling cocoa production. Much-hoped for oil in Sao Tome's waters has yet to be found in sufficient quantities to make it interesting for foreign companies to buy or invest in the industry.

When the previous government was censured by the National Assembly last month, it meant the end of the term of former prime minister Patrice Trovoada, of the Independent Democratic Action Party.

President Fradique de Menezes, who had hinted the censure of the previous government may lead to early legislative elections, finally backed down on the idea.

Braganca says there was little support in the small nation for elections, which would have been costly.

"The country was not ready for elections," he said. "Since there was a constitutional solution of compromise, this was the route chosen to move forward. For that reason people believe this government has the ability to change the country."

Of Sao Tome's estimated 140,000 citizens, about half live in very impoverished conditions. Many in recent years have been hoping for what some politicians called the promised "oil bonanza".

Braganca says the country should hedge its bets on unproven oil reserves, and should develop alternative economic projects.

"We cannot depend on waiting for oil," he said. "We must explore other areas, such as sustainable agriculture, tourism, and building infrastructure."

He said citizens have a beautiful country, and they must take advantage of it.

Shortly after being named prime minister, Rafael Branco said he was renouncing his other nationality, of the former colonial power, Portugal.

His predecessor, Trovoada, had said his successor was what he called a "constitutional fraud" because of his dual nationality.

The next scheduled election both for the legislature and the presidency will be in 2010. President de Menezes, who has won two elected terms, is constitutionally barred from running for another term.

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