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Key findings
  • Half (51%) of São Toméans prefer democracy to any other form of government, one of the lowest levels among 36 surveyed countries in Africa. Large majorities reject military rule (80%), one-party rule (76%), and one-man rule (68%).
  • Three-fourths (74%) of citizens support regular transparent elections as the best way to choose their leaders, and a majority (56%) support multiparty competition. Six in 10 (63%) favour limiting the president to a maximum of two terms in office.
  • Only about half of all citizens insist on the National Assembly’s roles as lawmakers (45%) and monitors of the government’s expenditures (51%).
  • While eight in 10 São Toméans (83%) describe the 2014 national election as completely or mostly free and fair, only 52% consider their country to be “a full democracy” or “a democracy, but with minor problems,” and fully three-fourths (75%) are dissatisfied with the way their democracy is working.
  • While São Toméans’ demand for democracy is relatively weak, it far outpaces the supply of democracy they see in their country.

Since gaining independence from Portugal in 1975, the Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe has experienced 15 years of one-party rule and, starting with a new constitution in 1990, 26 years of fast-moving multiparty competition marked by frequent changes in government and two attempted coups.

August 2016 brought another transition with the election of former Prime Minister Evaristo Carvalho as president over incumbent and former strongman leader Manuel Pinto da Costa.

The country’s distinctive politics reflect complex constitutional mandates for power-sharing and separation of executive powers between president and prime minister.

Afrobarometer’s first survey in the island nation, in 2015, suggests that after more than two decades of multiparty politics, São Toméans are only moderately supportive of democracy and largely dissatisfied with the way democracy is working in their country.

Adu Kakra Duayeden

Kakra is the data quality officer for North and West Africa

Daniel Armah-Attoh

Daniel is the project manager for North and Anglophone West Africa