Category Archives: Cape Verde

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.

Elections in two isolated places

Instead of covering the two recent votes of interest in the world in two separate posts, despite the fact that both these places have little in common besides being relatively isolated places few people know much about. These places are Baja California Sur in Mexico and Cape Verde.

Baja California Sur

As mentioned last week in a post on another Mexican state election in Guerrero, Baja California Sur held gubernatorial and local elections on February 6. These are the last ones before the exciting slew of state contests on July 3. Baja California Sur, which covers the southern end of the Baja California peninsula (and includes the touristy spot of Cabo San Lucas), is a sparsely populated, in fact the least populated, state in Mexico which is largely arid and desert. For some reason, the state has been a stronghold of the PRD for at least the last ten years or so, and has had a PRD governor since 1999. In contrast, Baja California (which covers the north of the peninsula) has been a PAN stronghold for ages, making the peninsula one of the few regions where the PRI is exceptionally weak.

Given that weakness, there was no incentive here for a PAN-PRD alliance of the like of the similar alliances cropping up in other states. The PRD candidate was Luis Armando Díaz, supported by the PT. The PRI-PVEM candidate was Ricardo Barroso Agramont. The PAN candidate was Marcos Alberto Covarrubias Villaseñor, a federal deputy for the PRD who left the PRD when he didn’t get their nomination. There was also a Convergencia and PANAL candidate.

Marcos Covarrubias Villaseñor (PAN-PRS) 40.35%
Ricardo Barroso Agramont (PRI-PVEM) 33.52%
Luis Armando Díaz (PRD-PT) 21.41%
Blanca Meza Torres (PANAL) 1.66%
Martín Inzunza Tamayo (Convergencia) 0.5%

This victory is not as much a victory for PAN as a personal victory for the “PAN candidate” who likely took a lot of votes away from the PRD, which finished third, but also from the PRI which had won 36.1% in 2005. The PRI’s result is perhaps the only one which can be interpreted from a partisan viewpoint without being too much off the mark, and from that standpoint the PRI result is certainly disappointing for them. The PRI’s great success in national polling for 2012 is hardly seen at the local level, last week in Guerrero and this week in Baja California Sur. This could mean that the PRI’s support even nationally is quite fickle.

In legislative elections, the PAN won 9 of the 16 direct seats with the PRI-PVEM taking 4 and the PRD 3. Seemingly, the remaining six PR list seats haven’t been distributed but all participating slates (which line up with the five participants of the gubernatorial contest) have passed the 2% threshold. In terms of share of the vote here, PAN has 31.87% against 28.24% for the PRI, 23.77% for the PRD, 9.1% for PANAL and 3.82% for Convergencia. The PAN’s success hasn’t been replicated in local elections, where it has only won one of the state’s five municipalities (Comondú) with PRD and PRI sharing the remaining four (PRI took the capital, La Paz).

Cape Verde

Legislative elections were held in the African island of Cape Verde on February 6, and come a few months out from a presidential election likely to be held this summer. Cape Verde is one of Africa’s democratic success stories, having had a slightly surreal peaceful transition of power from one party to another and more importantly from authoritarianism to democracy following free elections in 1991. Since then, governments have peacefully alternated in power and elections are free and also exceptionally close, with a 21-vote margin in the 2001 presidential election.

Two parties dominate the political life of this archipelago of dry and wind-swept islands off the coast of west Africa. The incumbent government is formed by the African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde (PAICV), which is the post-1980 name of the PAIGC. The PAIGC, founded by Amilcar Cabral, was a Marxist party fighting for the independence of Cape Verde and Portuguese Guinea and which got what it wanted in 1974 when Cape Verde and Guinea became a single independent entity. The Cape Verdean domination of the state didn’t please the mainland, which separated in 1980 but which surprisingly didn’t bother dropping the ‘and Cape Verde’ from the PAIGC’s name like the PAIGC did with the ‘Guinea’ part in Cape Verde. The PAIGC re-branded as PAICV ruled Cape Verde until 1991 as a one-party officially Marxist state. The Cape Verdean economy was (and is) pretty bad and the country, despite its communist rhetoric, was isolated and interestingly befriended apartheid South Africa as an unlikely ally. The PAICV was wiped out in free elections by the liberal Movement for Democracy (MPD) in 1991, but returned to power narrowly in 2001 (by 21 votes in the presidential contest) through former Prime Minister Pedro Pires (who was PM from 74 to 91) who was reelected with a narrow albeit slightly wider majority in 2006 over former MPD Prime Minister Carlos Veiga. Broadly speaking, the PAICV is a socialist party with an “African” orientation while the MPD is a more liberal party, supporting free trade and various other liberal measures. There is also a third party with legislative presence, the centre-right Democratic and Independent Cape Verdean Union (UCID) which remains weak.

PAICV 51% winning 37 seats (-4)
MPD 41.9% winning 33 seats (+4)
UCID 4.9% winning 2 seats (nc)

The MPD seems to do best in non-agricultural areas dependent on salt, while the PAICV does best in traditionally agricultural areas or in dense urban areas such as the capital, Praia. I don’t know how the electoral system works, but seemingly MPD has gained seats despite polling slightly less percentage wise than in 2006 (41.9% vs. 42.8%) with most lost votes going to the UCID who got 2.6% in 2006. There are also 6 diaspora seats, which split 3/3 between both main parties. Barely anyone voted for those seats, which means that Cape Verdeans abroad (of which there are a lot, especially in the US) either don’t vote or don’t have Cape Verdean nationality.

President Pedro Pires is not running again in the presidential election, instead incumbent Prime Minister José Maria Neves will be the PAICV’s candidate, once again facing Carlos Veiga. It’s hard to tell how these will go, but they’ll certainly be close given that the PAICV seems to do better in legislative elections than in presidential elections. Furthermore, party support has basically been the same since 2001 with the PAICV having a tad more support than the MPD but the country basically split down the middle 50/50 between both parties.