Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Manuel Pinto da Costa

Manuel Pinto da Costa (born 5 August 1937) is a Santoméan economist and politician who served as the first President of São Tomé and Príncipe from 1975 to 1991. He was again elected as President in August 2011 and took office on 3 September 2011.

Educated in the German Democratic Republic, he is fluent in Portuguese and German. Until the early 1990s the MLSTP maintained extensive relations with Angola and the MPLA, with Pinto da Costa himself having enjoyed a friendly relationship with José Eduardo dos Santos, the President of Angola, extending back to when they were both young men.

In 1991, the legalisation of opposition political parties led to the country's first election under a democratic system. Pinto da Costa did not contest the election and instead announced he would retire from politics. The MLSTP did not present an alternative candidate and Miguel Trovoada was elected unopposed. Despite his previous declaration, Pinto da Costa returned to contest elections in 1996, but was narrowly defeated, taking 47.26% of the vote, by Trovoada. In 2001, he ran against incumbent president Fradique de Menezes, who won a majority in the first round.

Pinto da Costa was elected leader of the MLSTP in May 1998. He resigned from the party in February 2005 and Guilherme Posser da Costa was elected to succeed him.

In the July 2011 elections, he ran as an independent. He won the most number of votes in the first round but failed to receive the required majority. In a run-off round on 7 August, he defeated rival Evaristo Carvalho from the ruling party Independent Democratic Action (Portuguese: Acção Democratica Independente, ADI), taking 53% of the votes. During the campaign, he focused on the need for political stability and promised to tackle widespread corruption. His bid was given the backing of most of the other major candidates, including former Prime Minister Maria das Neves, who claimed "Pinto da Costa's plan could bring more hope to our country". Some analysts, however, raised concerns that the former president's victory may trigger a return to the authoritarian rule seen during his previous period in power.

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