(AFP) – Aug 7, 2011
SAO TOME — Sao Tome and Principe voted peacefully Sunday in the second round of a presidential election expected to bring former strongman Manuel Pinto da Costa back to power.
Pinto da Costa, who ruled the archipelago with an iron fist for 15 years after independence from Portugal in 1975, is up against the speaker of the country's parliament, Evaristo Carvalho.
No incident had been reported when polling stations on the tiny island nation off Gabon closed at 6:00 pm (1700GMT).
"The polling process is over everywhere, in Sao Tome and overseas. Vote counting has started," electoral commission spokesman Joao Ramos said.
Around 92,000 people were expected to vote, out of a total population of 200,000. Some 30,000 abstained in the first round on July 17 and five villages boycotted the vote in protest at living conditions on the islands.
In an incident unrelated to Sunday's vote, a 37-year-old man was shot and hurt in the leg by a bodyguard to Sao Tome's youth and sports minister Abnildo d'Olivera.
Favourite Pinto da Costa, who turned 74 on Friday, led a one-party socialist state inspired by communism between 1975-1990.
He also served twice as prime minister, the first time under the country's first democratic president Miguel Trovoada.
Pinto da Costa won the first round with 35.58 percent of votes after an election campaign focused on the need for stability in a nation that saw 18 prime ministers in power in just 21 years after the country adopted a multi-party system in 1990.
He also pledged to fight against the rife corruption that has prohibited economic development for Sao Tome.
Rival Carvalho, who received 21.74 percent of the first-round vote, is a member of the Independent Democratic Action (ADI) party, which came top in legislative elections in August 2010.
He also made fighting corruption a key manifesto pledge.
"I am convinced I will win the election. I hope people will flock to polling stations in orderly fashion," he said when he cast his ballot in Sao Tome city centre.
Under Sao Tome law, outgoing president Fradique de Menezes, who was elected in 2001 and reelected in 2006, cannot seek a third mandate.
The small African archipelago relies on foreign aid for 80 percent of its budget.
Sao Tome is a rare case of a Gulf of Guinea nation that does not export oil but diplomats say production could start in 2014.
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