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São Tomé and Príncipe
Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
An alleged coup plot involving individuals who briefly ousted President Fradique de Menezes in a 2003 coup was uncovered in February 2009, and the trial of suspected conspirators began in October. Regional and municipal elections scheduled for August were postponed until 2010, when they may coincide with parliamentary elections. Meanwhile, a series of political scandals surrounding development aid emerged during the year.
Large oil and natural gas deposits are thought to lie off the coast, though production is not expected before 2010. A 2001 agreement with Nigeria created the Joint Development Zone (JDZ), with Sao Tome and Principe receiving 40 percent of oil and gas revenues. The government planned to establish a national oil company in 2010 with assistance from Angola.Corruption allegations have surrounded the process by which exploration blocks in the JDZ are awarded, and bonus funds intended for Sao Tome’s oil account were allegedly transferred to a Nigerian bank in 2008. That same year, the country became an Extractive Industries and Transparency Initiative (EITI) candidate country. Despite its potential wealth, the country faces serious poverty. Sao Tome ranked 131 out of 182 countries in the 2009 UN Development Programme’s Human Development Report. In 2009, the local currency was pegged to the euro.
Sao Tome and Principe is an electoral democracy. Presidential and parliamentary elections in 2006 were free and fair. The president is elected for a five-year term and can serve up to two consecutive terms. Members of the unicameral, 55-seat National Assembly are elected by popular vote to four-year terms. Four party blocs currently hold seats in the legislature, but a number of other parties exist.