Voters in the tiny archipelago of Sao Tome and Principe went to the polls Sunday to elect a new head of state, with just one candidate in a runoff boycotted by the incumbent president. Held up as a regional model of democracy, the west African former Portuguese colony is mired in its worst crisis in a quarter-century of multiparty politics. In the first round of voting on July 17, former prime minister Evaristo Carvalho, the ruling party candidate, initially seemed to have scraped past the 50 percent needed for an outright win. Election officials then revised Carvalho’s tally downwards to 49.8 percent and the share of 79-year-old President Manuel Pinto da Costa to 24.83 percent, thus prompting a runoff. But Pinto da Costa, who had lashed the process as a fraud and demanded it be scrapped, announced he would not contest the second round.
Carvalho on Sunday called on “all residents of Sao Tome and Principe to exercise their right to vote” and confirm his first-round victory.
The 74-year-old turned up to cast his ballot at around noon at a primary school in the capital. “I hope the electoral process is completed in calm and peaceful conditions,” he told journalists, accusing Pinto da Costa of “pulling out to avoid losing the election”.
But by the time the polling stations closed, it appeared that turnout among the country’s 111,000 voters had been low.