Cabo Verde: President-elect promises ‘dialogue with all’ for economic recovery

The president-elect of Cabo Verde, José Maria Neves, has promised “dialogue with everyone” after his election in Sunday’s first round, calling for a joint effort between the country’s sovereign bodies and civil society to ensure economic recovery.

“This is a great victory for the people of Cabo Verde,” Neves said in his victory speech at his campaign headquarters in Praia. “The winners on a civic day of this magnitude are the Cabo Verdeans, on the islands and in the diaspora, who have set a great example of civic-mindedness.”

He promised to be a “president who unites, who cares and who protects” and “a president of all Cabo Verdeans.”

Neves, a former prime minister, was elected on Sunday as the country’s fifth head of state since independence from Portugal in 1975, with 51.5% to votes cast, according to provisional official results.

According to data updated at 9 p.m. local time by the General Directorate of Support to the Electoral Process (DGAPE) and the National Elections Commission (CNE), Neves had 93,149 votes (with ballots from 97% of polling stations counted), while his leading opponent, Carlos Veiga, also a former prime minister, failed to win for a third time (he had also stood in 2001 and 2006), securing 77,018 votes, equivalent to 42.6%.

In his victory speech, Neves said that it was necessary that all sovereign bodies, citizens and civil society “join hands” in the face of the challenges that Cabo Verde must face, namely the deep economic crisis resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It is an enormous responsibility to preside over the Cabo Verdean nation in these times and I receive this victory with the great humility that has always characterised me,” he said. “Cabo Verdeans and Cabo Verdeans can count on me.

“With all humility, serenity and enormous responsibility I will work to unite Cabo Verdeans: I will be the president of all Cabo Verdeans, I will be an impartial arbitrator, a watchdog of government action, a conflict appeaser, a president who will collaborate with the government, local authorities and civil society,” he said.

In the same speech, the president-elect said that he looked forward to “dialogue with everyone”, while expressing thanks for the support of the opposition African Party for the Independence of Cabo Verde (PAICV), which he once led, including as prime minister from 2001 to 2016. He also revealed that he had already spoken by telephone with the current prime minister, Ulisses Correia e Silva, who is leader of the Movement for Democracy (MpD).

“I hope to be able to work with the government … so that together we can face the challenges facing Cabo Verde,” Neves said.

He also added that he had already received a congratulatory phone call from the president of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, ad that he had invited de Sousa to attend his inauguration.

Neves, 61, currently a university professor, has been a PAICV activist for some 40 years, during which he has been a member of parliament, mayor of Santa Catarina, and government minister, before becoming prime minister.

Of other candidates in Sunday’s presidential elections, Casimiro de Pina so far (with ballots from 97% of polling stations counted) had received 1.8% of the vote, Fernando Rocha Delgado 1.4%, Hélio Sanches 1.2%, Gilson Alves 0.9% and Joaquim Monteiro 0.8%.

In all, 186,991 ballots had been cast, for an abstention rate of 51.7%.

This was the first time that Cabo Verde had had as many as seven candidates for president in direct elections. The previous maximum had been four, in 2001 and 2011.

The elections ended the series of polls that began on 25 October 2020, with the municipal elections, and continued on 18 April with the legislative elections. Throughout, health protection measures have been in place, such as the use of masks and mandatory disinfection of hands at the entrance of polling stations, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

A total of 342,777 voters were registered to vote in the country’s 22 constituencies, while the 16 international constituencies had 56,087 registered voters, for a total of 398,864 people eligible to vote.

The incumbent Jorge Carlos Fonseca, who is serving his second and final term, did not stand in these elections.

The presidential elections in Cabo Verde were monitored throughout the country by 104 international observers, including 30 from the African Union, in a mission led by the diplomat and former Angolan government minister, Ismael Gaspar Martins, and 71 from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), as well as and three from the US embassy in Praia.

Cabo Verde has had four presidents since independence, the first being the late Aristides Pereira (from 1975 to 1991) who was chosen by indirect election, followed by the late António Mascarenhas Monteiro (1991-2001), the first to be directly elected, Pedro Pires (2001-2011) and then Fonseca.

The last presidential elections in Cabo Verde, which saw Fonseca, an expert in constitutional law, re-elected as head of state, were held on 2 October 2016. Fonseca won in the first round, with 74% of the vote.