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Cape Verde, in economic turmoil, votes for new president

By AFP
Africa Tourism numbers plummeted in Cape Verde last year after Covid restrictions took hold.  By Seyllou (AFP)
OCT 17, 2021 LISTEN
Tourism numbers plummeted in Cape Verde last year after Covid restrictions took hold. By Seyllou (AFP)

Polls in Cape Verde closed Sunday in a ballot to choose a new president, after a contest marked by debate over the future for the tiny west African nation battered by the Covid-driven slump in global tourism.

Prior to the pandemic, visitors accounted for a quarter of the economy for the volcanic archipelago, a former Portuguese colony of half a million inhabitants lauded for its stable government and smooth democratic transitions of power.

GDP shrank by 14.8 percent last year and many hotels and restaurants closed as coronavirus fears and restrictions kept hundreds of thousands of visitors away.

Soaring inflation is another concern. Since the beginning of the month, the price of water and electricity has risen by 37 percent.

A total of 398.864 people were eligible to vote, including 56,000 Cape Verdeans living overseas, for a first-round presidential vote.

The two frontrunners among a record seven candidates are both former prime ministers: 72-year-old lawyer Carlos Veiga and academic Jose Maria Neves, 60.

Veiga represents the centre-right Movement for Democracy (MpD), which has a majority in parliament.

Centre-right candidate Carlos Veiga has long-running presidential ambitions -- he ran for the top job in 2006.  By SEYLLOU DIALLO (AFP) Centre-right candidate Carlos Veiga has long-running presidential ambitions -- he ran for the top job in 2006. By SEYLLOU DIALLO (AFP)

Neves stands for the opposition African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde (PAICV), which ruled the former Portuguese colony when it was a one-party state.

If none of the seven wins more than 50 percent of the vote, it will go to a second-round run-off between the two leading candidates on October 31.

The first results of Sunday's voting were expected a few hours after polling stations closed at 6:00 pm (1900 GMT).

Archipelago

Outgoing president Jorge Carlos Fonseca (MpD) cannot run again, having already served the maximum two terms.

Sunday's election comes six months after the MpD won parliamentary elections, beating the PAICV into second place.

Between them, the two parties have run the country since it won independence from Portugal in 1975.

Under Cape Verde's semi-parliamentary political system, the prime minister has executive powers while the president acts as arbiter.

Cape Verde is home to just over half a million people, living on 10 arid islands scattered around 500 kilometres (300 miles) off Guinea-Bissau and Senegal.

The islands were uninhabited until they were settled in the 15th century by Portuguese traders who brought in slaves from the African mainland.

The country is ranked second for governance in Africa on the index drawn up by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, after Mauritius.

Since it staged its first free elections in 1991, it has never recorded any violence linked to election campaigns or their results.

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