Printer-friendly versionSend by emailPDF version

Cape Verdeans are going to the polls this month to decide who will replace Pedro Pires as he approaches the end of his second and final term. As Cláudio Furtado writes, regardless of who ultimately triumphs, two things make this particular election stand out: the fact that four candidates – three with a genuine chance of winning – are in the running and the wider implications for the PAICV (Partido Africano de Independência de Cabo Verde) party and the country’s government.

Cape Verde is currently undergoing its sixth presidential campaign since 1991, the year when multi-partyism and the possibility of competitive elections were first established. In the five previous elections, only two candidates – backed by the two largest political parties in the PAICV (Partido Africano da Independência de Cabo Verde) and the MPD (Movimento para a Democracia) – presented themselves. In a similar vein, up to now each elected president has completed two terms, as fixed by the country’s constitution.

Four candidates are competing with one another in the 2011 presidential elections, with two candidates backed by the two main parties, one with the backing of a third political force with parliamentary representation in the UCID (União Cabo-Verdiana Independente e Democrática), and another ‘dissident’ from the PAICV with no party support.

The PAICV candidate is Manuel Inocêncio Sousa, a former minister of foreign businesses, infrastructure and transport in the two previous governments led by Prime Minister José Maria Neves. Jorge Carlos Fonseca, a former minister of foreign business from the first government led by Carlos Veiga in the 1990s, has the backing of the MPD. Aristides Raimundo Lima, the former president of the country’s parliament in the previous two governments, can be considered a ‘rebel’ PAICV candidate supported by the UCID. Lastly there is Joaquim Jaime Monteiro, a former militant of the PAIGC (Partido Africano da Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde), the only candidate without backing from the main political parties.

If the surveys sponsored by the various candidates are to be believed, there is a significant possibility that for the first time there will be a run-off between the two candidates with the highest number of votes in the 7 August election. What is certain is that on 21 August Cape Verdeans will be choosing the next lodger of the Plateau presidential palace.

If the choice of Jorge Carlos Fonseca proved relatively calm within the MPD (despite the calls from Amílcar Spencer Lopes for the party’s support and others behind him, including the jurisdictional council), there have nevertheless been question marks around the legality of the process behind the support for the PAICV’s official candidates, giving rise to wounds that will be hard to heal.


Indeed, choosing an official PAICV candidate proved particularly tense. For a party that had recently won the parliamentary election (securing its third mandate), this campaign showed that the consequences of the presidential election will be significant – no matter what the outcome.

In truth, within the ideological spectre of the PAICV – social democracy – two candidates are in the running – Manuel Inocêncio Sousa, supported both formally and officially by the PAICV, and Aristides Raimundo Lima, officially backed by the UCID and certain important figures within the PAICV, along with almost all the previous ‘combatentes’ and by those close to the outgoing president, Pedro Pires.

Over the course of the campaign there have been an increasing number of speeches and heated debates, with insinuations about the party’s political life pointing to the beginning of an internal split within the PAICV. The current prime minister and president of the PAICV José Maria Neves has confirmed that following the elections he will be convening an extraordinary congress for the purpose of clarifying the question of the party’s leadership. At an internal level within the PAICV, this situation is one of ‘apparent’ anticipation of a leadership contest once the current president declares, in the wake of February’s parliamentary elections in the coming year, that he will step down as leader after 2015. Accordingly, one possible reading is to emphasise the existing traditional ‘political leanings’ of the internal group towards opposing the current leader (with its most visible face in the shape of the former president of the Praia municipal chamber and current minister of social development and families, Felisberto Vieira). Equally, there is also the idea that the current president and those close to him want to create a sort of chess match that would prove favourable to him halfway through 2014. With such a chessboard at play, ensuring that the president of the country is somebody close to the group will constitute a fundamental strategy for challenging the power of Prime Minister José Maria Neves, who was himself able to place somebody close to him as president of parliament in the first round, the MP Basílio Ramos.

Elsewhere on this chessboard, a focus on the candidacy of Aristides Lima would be the most appropriate, once the former president of parliament belongs to the same ‘political leanings’ of the other opposition figures within the current leadership, with years of building his image as a presidential candidate. Furthermore, some observers are saying that the parliament’s management strategy is one of keeping itself at an equal distance from the government, having at times taken decisions which go against the government and the parliamentary group which supports it.

Yet it happens that in the second round the group lost again, sparking infighting within the PAICV around which candidate to offer formal backing to. The national management of the PAICV opted, on the strength of the bulk of its members, to support the candidacy of the former minister of state and infrastructure, Manuel Inocêncio Sousa, also considered close to the current prime minister.

It is in this context that Aristides Lima built his candidacy in defiance of the PAICV’s organs and by counting on the support of past and present party leaders, as well as on that of prominent figures within civil society. This has therefore led to an important political schism that, for the first time, could push the verdict in the presidential elections to a second round between the two candidates with the most votes.

With a second round, the biggest question now is which two candidates will be battling each other in the final contest. For Aristides Lima – who for the first time in the past few days was asking voters their choice in the first round (something a bit dubious) – his victory and capacity to make it to the second round is near certain, regardless of the way things go. In effect, if he comes to face Jorge Carlos Fonseca, he will count on the support of Manuel Inocêncio Sousa’s voters. If his opponent is Manuel Inocêncio, he will have the support of Jorge Carlos Fonseca’s voters. For Jorge Carlos Fonseca a possible second round wouldn’t matter, regardless of his opponent. Finally, Manuel Inocêncio would only be interested in facing Jorge Carlos Fonseca, with the certainty of counting on Aristides Lima’s votes. Joaquim Monteiro, for his part, seems to have no chance in this electoral contest.


In the last presidential election, Cape Verdeans abroad were crucial to Pedro Pires’s victory. Electoral data showed that Carlos Veiga – then a presidential candidate – won the elections in the country itself only to be being defeated overall by the diaspora’s votes, with Pedro Pires being elected when all votes were ultimately counted.

Taking into account the number of candidates, in the current presidential election the diaspora will also play an important role in the final result. As a result of this the three leading electoral candidates launched their own ‘pre-campaigns’, visiting a number of countries with Cape Verdean communities. Along with the United States, European countries like Portugal, France, the Netherlands and Italy have been important in this election, with African countries such as Senegal, São Tomé & Príncipe and Angola also important.


Whatever the result of the election, the current government will be in crisis. In effect, with respect to the PAICV – the party behind policy and parliament and the current government – the presidential elections have come to form a much-anticipated campaign for its own leadership contest. The fact that the prime minister and president of the PAICV have said that the current mandate will be the last seems to have triggered considerable interest, namely from Felisberto Vieira, president of the politically most important region of the PAICV, Santiago Sul. Vieira mobilised all of his supporters around the candidacy of Aristide Lima, giving strong speeches in his favour at electoral rallies. As a member of the government, Vieira will find it difficult to cohabit with the prime minister. Indeed, certain stories doing the rounds at the moment point to strong divisions between the prime minister and his minister of social development and families, with heated discussions in the Council of Ministers. This then is the first crisis.

The second crisis is in the country’s parliament. The PAICV has an absolute majority, with four mandates more than the MPD. And yet among the MPs of the PAICV, a not insignificant number has been growing of those loyal to Felisberto Vieira and in support of Aristides Lima. Júlio Correia, the vice-president of parliament, Sidónio Monteiro and Arnaldo Andrade are part of this group, with others being added. In this scenario, the PAICV runs the risk of no longer having a parliamentary majority, becoming in danger of political and governmental instability alike.

As an extreme, the government being toppled is a possibility and consequently so are early elections. This is a possible scenario, but one ultimately unlikely as it does not seem that the prime minister’s internal opposition is interested in the fall of the government or the holding of early elections, which would put the PAICV out of favour and could return the MPD to power. A survival instinct and the desire to safeguard personal and group interests could prove stronger.

The elections of 7 August or, ultimately, 21 August will determine the next resident of the Plateau palace, along with the direction of the third mandate of José Maria Neves as head of government.


* Cláudio Furtado is an associate professor at the University of Cape Verde.
* Translated from Portuguese by Alex Free.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.