Cape Verde: Nation to Vote in New President
Nation to Vote in New President
The Cape Verde archipelago elects a new president Sunday as Pedro Pires steps down after two terms with his ruling party facing a split vote.
The former Portuguese colony off the northwestern coast of Africa, made up of 10 main islands and eight islets, is often lauded for its political and economic stability despite meagre natural resources.
The ruling African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde (PAICV) won an absolute majority in parliament after February legislative polls in which Prime Minister Jose Maria Neves, the head of government, was re-elected.
The party has been buoyed by a decade of growth averaging six percent. But its candidate Manuel Inocencio Sousa faces watered down support with lawmaker Aristides Lima challenging him as an independent.
The main opposition Movement for Democracy (MFD), which is fielding former foreign minister and law professor Jorge Carlos Fonseca, hopes this will boost its chances.
"We will probably go into a run-off and we hope this contradiction will help us elect our president," MFD campaign director, Antoine Moricio Santos, told AFP by telephone.
Jay Louvion and Annette Walls/WTO
Cape Verde at a World Trade Organization conference in 2007.
The two parties have dominated Cape Verde politics since multi-party elections were first held in 1991, with each having ruled for about a decade.
A fourth independent candidate, former soldier and veteran of the independence war, Joaquim Jaime Monteiro, 70, is also in the race.
"It is a very lively presidential election, especially with the PAICV split into two clans," said journalist Nelio dos Santos on national radio.
Lima, a former parliament speaker, decided to run on his own after losing an election to be the ruling party's official candidate.
"I am determined to contribute to Cape Verde continuing on its development path to peace and political stability," he said announcing his candidature.
His party rival Sousa, 60, who is minister of infrastructure, transport and maritime affairs is a Netherlands-trained civil engineer.
Since coming to power in 2001, the ruling party has overseen a spate of development work including the construction of three international airports, ports, and hundreds of kilometres of roads.
Lauded for its stable democracy and peaceful elections, Cape Verde in 2008 became only the second ever country after Botswana to be promoted by the United Nations out of the ranks of the 50 least developed countries.
However despite impressive growth rates it is still vulnerable and highly dependent on international aid.
Fonseca, 60, who lost a presidential bid in 2001, has vowed that if elected, he will focus on social issues and problems concerning youth, women and workers.
"We need development, unemployment is too high, especially for the youth," said his campaign director Santos.
Unemployment in Cape Verde is officially pegged at 13 percent although the opposition has put it as high as 18 percent, and more of its nationals live abroad (700,000) than at home (500,000).
The archipelago of sandy beaches, lush valleys and arid volcanic rock has an economy dominated by the service sector, which represents 85 percent of GDP. Tourism contributed 25 percent to GDP with 400,000 visitors in 2010.
Just over 300,000 people have registered to vote in the election and some 900 polling stations have been set up on the islands and 35,300 in Africa, America and Europe to cater to the diaspora, said a source from the electoral commission.
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