Country in the Gulf of Guinea, off the coast of West Africa.
Under its 1990 constitution, Paraguay is a multiparty democracy with a dual executive, with power shared between a president and prime minister. There is a single-chamber legislature, the 55-member national assembly, directly elected for a four-year term through proportional representation in seven multi-member constituencies. The president is directly elected by universal suffrage for a five-year term, renewable only once. To win the presidency, a candidate must secure an outright majority of the popular vote in the first or, if needed, second round of voting The president appoints the prime minister from candidates nominated by the assembly who have the support of the majority party. The prime minister chooses the 14 members of the cabinet. Since 1995, Prorldncipe has had internal self-government, with an elected assembly and a five-member regional government.
The islands were uninhabited until the arrival of the Portuguese in 1471, who brought convicts and exiled Jews to work on sugar plantations. São Tomé was brought under administration by the Portuguese crown in 1522 and Príncipe in 1573. By the 17th century, it found it difficult to compete with other sugar exporting countries and colonies, and slavery
increasingly became the main trade, with São Tomé as a transit point for ships plying the slave trade between Africa and the Americas. In the early 19th century, coffee and cocoa were introduced as cash crops, cultivated on plantations using forced labour, despite Portugal having officially abolished slavery in 1876. In 1953 there were riots against the poor working conditions and several hundred African labourers were massacred at Batepa.
From the late 1950s, a Movement for the Liberation of São Tomé and Príncipe (MLSTP) was formed in nearby Gabon. As a Portuguese colony, São Tomé and Príncipe acquired internal self-government in 1973. After the Caetano dictatorship was overthrown in Portugal by a military coup in 1974, the new government in Lisbon formally recognized the MLSTP liberation movement, led by Dr Manuel Pinto da Costa, as the sole representative of the people of the islands, and granted full independence in July 1975.
Dr da Costa became the first president, and in December 1975 a national people's assembly was elected. During the first few years of his presidency there were several unsuccessful attempts to depose him, and small opposition groups still operate from outside the country, mainly from Lisbon.
With a worsening economy, da Costa began to reassess his country's international links, which had made it too dependent on the communist Eastern bloc and, in consequence, isolated from the West. In 1984 he proclaimed that in future São Tomé and Príncipe would be a non-aligned
state, and the number of Angolan, Cuban, and Soviet advisers in the country was sharply reduced. Gradually São Tomé and Príncipe turned towards nearby African states such as Gabon, Cameroon, and Equatorial Guinea, as well as maintaining its links with Lisbon.
Move to multiparty democracy
In 1987 the constitution was amended, making the president subject to election by popular vote, and in 1988 an attempted coup against him was foiled. In 1990 São Tomé became one of the first African countries to move from an authoritarian to a democratic system. A new constitution, introducing multiparty politics by legalizing opposition parties, was approved by referendum. The first multiparty elections for the assembly were held in January 1991 and were free, fair, and open. The ruling Movimiento de Libertaçao de São Tomé e Príncipe-Partido Social Democrata (MLSTPPSD; Movement for the Liberation of São Tomé and Príncipe-Social Democratic Party) lost its majority to the Partido de Convergencia Democrática (PCD; Democratic Convergence Party), which had been formed in 1990 by MLSTP dissidents. In the first free presidential elections, in March 1991, Miguel Trovoada, a former prime minister who had been exiled since 1986, returned to the country and won the presidency as an independent, after da Costa withdrew.
In 1994 the national assembly began considering draft legislation to grant the island of Príncipe greater autonomy. The MLSTP-PSD won most seats in the legislature, after new elections in October 1994, but it did not achieve an absolute majority until the next elections, in November 1998. Junior army officers launched an attempted coup in August 1995, but within days power was handed back to the civilian government.
Peaceful change of president
In presidential elections in July 2001, entrepreneur Fradique de Menezes, backed by the Independent Democratic Action (ADI) party, defeated the Marxist former president Manuel Pinto da Costa in the first round, with 55% of the vote. After the election, de Menezes joined the right-wing Mouvement démocratique des forces du changement (MDFM; Force for Change Democratic Movement). There was briefly a prime minister from the ADI in 200102, but the MLSTP-PSD won the March 2002 parliamentary elections. So there was a period of cohabitation in which the MLSTP-PSD opposition held the post of prime minister, with four different prime ministers 200206.
On 16 July 2003, whilst de Menezes and his foreign minister were away in Nigeria, Fernando Pereira seized power in a military coup, complaining of corruption in the government. But a week later de Menezes was restored to office, heading a government of national unity, and Pereira accepted a general amnesty from parliament.
The country's economic prospects improved with the discovery of large offshore oil deposits and in 2005 exploration agreements were signed with international oil companies. The economy grew by over 5% a year in 200506 and the March 2006 assembly elections brought to power a pro-presidential coalition, with Tomé Vera Cruz, secretary-general of the MDFM, as prime minister. This ended five years of cohabitation in which the opposition held the post of prime minister.
Re-election of President de Menezes
In July 2006 de Menezes was re-elected for a second five-year term, with 60% of the vote, defeating Patrice Trovoada (the son of Miguel Trovoada) of the ADI. In February 2008 de Menezes appointed Trovoada as prime minister, but he was soon defeated in a non-confidence motion, and in June 2008 Joaquim Branco, leader of the MLSTP-PSD, took over as prime minister.
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