Cape Verde 2011

Presidential elections were held in Cape Verde on August 7 and 21. Cape Verde is an African archipelago composed of ten islands off the coast of West Africa (Guinea-Bissau). The former Portuguese colony gained independence from Portugal in 1975, and was ruled from that point till 1991 by Aristides Pereira as a single-party socialist state centered around the left-wing African Party of Independence of Cape Verde (PAICV, ex-PAIGC). However, in 1991, Pereira opened to system to democracy and in a wonderful example of democratic transition of power, he handed power over to António Mascarenhas Monteiro of the liberal opposition Movement for Democracy (MPD) after losing the first free elections in a landslide to Monteiro. The liberal MPD ruled until 2001, when Pedro Pires – Pereira’s former PM and the candidate of the left-wing PAICV – defeated MPD Prime Minister Carlos Veiga by a mere twelve votes. Pires was reelected in 2006 by a 3000 vote margin against Veiga and was due to retire this year. The PAICV won legislative elections in February, taking 51% of the vote to the MPD’s 42%.

Cape Verde’s economy is strong: GDP growth was 5.5% this year and is projected to reach 6.8% next year. In addition, unemployment has been slowly declining and Cape Verde’s poverty rate has been halved compared to 1990 level. The country still faces many challenges, and poverty is not eradicated, but thanks to tourism and foreign remittances from emigrants, the economy is doing well. It can also be proud of its strong democracy: it is one of the freest and most democratic nations in Africa: it has a 7.94 on the Democracy Index – flawed democracy – but that is better than Greece, Italy, France, Israel or Brazil.

The PAICV split ahead of the election: the party officially nominated former foreign minister Manuel Inocêncio Sousa, but the speaker of the National Assembly, Aristides Lima ran as an independent with the support of part of the PAICV. The MPD nominated Jorge Carlos Fonseca, a former foreign minister and independent candidate for President in 2001 (he did poorly). Some independent named Joaquim Monteiro also ran.

In the first round, the MPD’s Fonseca won 37.3%, followed by Manuel Inocêncio Sousa at 32% and Lima with 27.4%. Aristides Lima bowed out of the race gracefully but did not endorse any candidate, pointing to bad blood between the PAICV candidates. He instead talked about how far his candidacy had gotten despite alleged biased or unequal media coverage.

Jorge Carlos Fonseca (MPD) 54.16%
Manuel Inocêncio Sousa (PAICV) 45.84%

Fonseca apparently benefited from the support of most of Aristides Lima’s voters, and perhaps from a campaign which apparently stressed how independent he was and how he would not be the president of any one party. Fonseca’s victory was a blow to the PAICV leadership and Prime Minister José Maria Neves (PAICV leader and PM since 2001), but both welcomed his victory quite gracefully and hailed it as a great democratic moment. With the PAICV holding a majority in the legislature, Fonseca will likely have to stick with José Maria Neves  as Prime Minister, the first such cohabitation between the MPD and PAICV in Cape Verdean institutions since democratization in 1991. Given that both parties are actually rather similar in practice, both, for example, being supportive of the market economy (to varying extents, of course), it shouldn’t be wracked by too many disagreements.

Manuel Inocêncio Sousa carried the emigrant vote with 54%, doing best with Cape Verdeans in Africa (67%) and the Americas (59%) rather than those in Europe (47%). However, in Cape Verde, Fonseca carried all but one of the ten main islands in the archipelago. He won his best results in the eastern Barlavento Islands and Maio, which are economically dependent on salt (and tourism to a lesser extent). He only lost Fogo (by a lot – he took 39.9% there), which is a volcanic agricultural island. Agricultural islands are traditionally more favourable to the PAICV than salt islands, which tend to favour the liberal MPD. Yet, Fonseca carried most of these agricultural islands as well, although not with the huge margins he carried the salt islands with.

Start reading my Guide to the 2011 Spanish Elections, all you’ve ever wanted to know and more about Spanish history, political issues, political parties, regions and more in one huge thing. Still under permanent construction.

Posted on August 24, 2011, in Cape Verde. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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