| Democratic Process
This section has been updated
by Mr Boubacar Issa Abdourhamane,
a doctorate student at the CEAN, IEP Montesquieu University of Bordeaux
The year 1990 was a decisive
one in the political evolution of Cape Verde. In that year, this former Portuguese colony,
an archipelago lying some 500 kilometres off the coast of Senegal, became one of the first
countries in Sub-Saharan Africa to pass from a single-party political regime to a
pluralist, democratic system.
For the first few years after independence in 1975, the political landscape was dominated by the African Party for the Independence of Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC) and then by the African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde (PAICV), after the split of this bi-national party in 1981. The 1980 Constitution was amended in 1981 to establish the primacy of the new party as the governing force of the nation and all other parties were banned. Aristide Pereira was the Secretary General of the PAICV and the Chief of State from 1975 onwards, being re-elected to this position three times by the Peoples National Assembly (ANP). He was also the Chief of the Army.
The third party congress in November 1988 marked a turning point in the post-colonial history of the country with major decisions being taken with a view to opening up the regime. On this occasion, the PAICV-State committed itself to making political and economic reforms. In April 1990, a group of intellectuals created the Movement for Democracy (MPD) and openly demanded the creation of a multi-party system. On 4 April, the National Committee of the PAICV decided in favour of political pluralism, the adoption of a new electoral law and the election of the President of the Republic by universal suffrage. In September 1990, a round table meeting brought together the government, the PAICV and the MPD to decide on the organisation of the various elections. Finally, on 28 September, the Assembly adopted the revision of the Constitution. Article 4 on the supremacy of the single party was abolished. The State and the party were separated and political pluralism came into force. Prime Minister Pedro Pires (in office since 1975) succeeded A. Pereira as Secretary General of the party.
As a result of the negotiations, the different parties agreed that the presidential and general elections should be organised by a commission on which the PAICV and the MPD were to be represented, the other legalised parties having failed to put forward lists of candidates. In January 1991, the first pluralist general elections in the countrys history were held in a peaceful atmosphere. With 68% of the votes, the MPD won 56 of the 79 seats in Parliament. General Pedro Pires, the Prime Minister and Secretary General of the PAICV since 1990, resigned. He was replaced by Carlos Veiga, a member of the MPD. On 17 February 1991, the presidential election was held. Aristide Pereira, in power since 1975, was beaten by his challenger Antonio Mascarenhas Monteiro, the candidate of the MPD, who won 73.5% of the votes. Finally, in the local elections held in December 1991, the MPD came first in 10 of the countrys 14 concelhos (municipalities).
July 1992 saw the beginning of a debate on the question of reforming the Constitution against a backdrop of disagreements between the PAICV and the MPD, as well as between the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister, concerning the extent of the Presidents powers. In September 1992, the reform culminated in the adoption of law n° 01/IV/92, which in fact amounted to a new Constitution, given that it abrogated practically every article of the previous Constitution.
General elections (by proportional representation) were held in December 1995 to renew the Parliament elected in 1991. Turnout was high (77%). The MPD won 50 of the 72 seats, while the PAICV got 21 and the PCD (Partido da Convergencia Democratica) 1. On 18 February 1996, the first presidential term of the pluralist era came to a close with the organisation of new presidential elections. The outgoing President, Mascarenhas Monteiro, was the only candidate. Although he was elected with 80% of the votes, the MPD lost ground in the local elections. The democratic process of 1990-1991 has led to paradoxes such as the fact that there was a single candidate in the election for President when there was nothing to stop other people standing. The term of office of President Monteiro expires in February 2001 with the organisation of the next elections and he may not stand for a third term. Former Prime Ministers Carlos Veiga and Pedro Pires will be the main challengers for the presidential election scheduled for 11 February 2001.
The Constitution of Cape
Verde is extremely meticulous and detailed when compared with those of the countries of
French-speaking Africa. Executive power is in the hands of the President of the Republic
and the government. The President of the Republic is now elected by direct universal
suffrage for a term of five years that can be renewed. He may in no case seek election for
a third consecutive term of office. His fields of competence are defined exhaustively. In
particular, we can point out the fact that he has the power to dissolve the National
Assembly subject to conditions listed in the Constitution, and to appoint the Prime
Minister, taking into account the election results. In other words, he appoints the Prime
Minister from the parliamentary majority. The Prime Minister does not answer to the
President of the Republic who may dismiss him only in specific cases (resignation,
dissolution of parliament, impeachment etc.)
The Parliament of Cape Verde is monocameral and legislative power is in the hands of the National Assembly with its 72 members elected every five years by direct universal suffrage. Six of them are elected by Cape Verdeans residing abroad. The Chief of State (in certain conditions) and the government report to the National Assembly. It can overthrow the government by a no-confidence motion and has substantial power.
In constitutional matters, it is the Supreme Court that is the competent authority, according to the terms defined in the Constitution. Once it has pronounced a law unconstitutional, that law may no longer be promulgated. The Court issues consultative opinions, but also binding orders. The Supreme Court is the highest authority in all types of electoral disputes (presidential, general and local elections). It is also this court that pronounces the dissolution of political organisations and associations.
Cape Verde also has other institutions, such as the Council of the Republic, defined as being a political body that advises the President of the Republic. It is composed of the Speaker of the National Assembly, the Prime Minister, the President of the Supreme Court, the Attorney General, the President of the Council for Regional Affairs, two citizens selected by the President of the Republic and two citizens elected by the National Assembly. Its decisions, however, are not binding.
The legal system is based on the principle of jurisdictional units. The organisation of the system of tribunals distinguishes between the Supreme Court at the top of the system, the Courts of First Instance, the Court of Auditors, the Tax Tribunals, the Customs Courts and the Military Tribunals. With the exception of the latter, special courts are expressly forbidden. An Attorney General is appointed by the government and the Prosecutors are appointed by the Ministry of Justice. The Judges may not be removed from office and are appointed by the Supreme Court on the proposals of the Judicial Council. The tribunals are organised by region and sub-region. The President of the Supreme Court is also the President of the High Judicial Council.
Decentralisation and Devolution
The Constitution of Cape
Verde goes into great detail on the question of local authorities, by which it mainly
means the communes. These are legal entities and enjoy financial autonomy. The term of
office of local councillors lasts four years. Cape Verde is divided into fourteen concelhos
(provinces) and thirty-four freguesias (parishes). Then there are the
zonas, the smallest geographical and administrative units. Since the
local elections of 1991 and 1996, the President of the Municipal Chamber
(Mayor) and the Municipal Assembly have been responsible for supervising the concelhos.
The latest municipal elections, organised on 20 February 2000, were won by the African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde (PAICV) at the expense of the party in power, the MPD. The capital, Praia, was one of the 7 communes which were won by the PAICV, with six going to the MPD after these third municipal elections of the democratic era. It should be pointed out, however, that these elections were marked by abstention rates of between 40 and 50%.
There are local representatives of the State who supervise the elected local bodies although the latter do benefit, by law, from great autonomy.
New legislation on political
parties was adopted in the wake of the liberalisation measures of 1990. To be legalised,
parties must obtain 500 signatures of support and must have a national base. No regional,
racial or religious organisations may be registered as political parties. Finally, their
finances are subject to audit.
At present, the main parties in Cape Verde are the following: the Movement for Democracy (Movimento para Democracia MPD), the party currently in power and also the most widely implanted in the country; the African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde (Partido Africano da Independencia de Cabo-Verde PAICV), the former single party; the Cape Verdean Independent and Democratic Union (Uniao Caboverdiana Independente e Democratica UCID); the Social Democratic Party (Partido Social Democratico PSD) and the Democratic Convergence Party (Partido de Convergencia Democratica PCD).
Prior to the liberalisation measures of the beginning of the 1990s, the PAICV revolutionary authorities founded and controlled a single trades union, the National Union of the Workers of Cape Verde (Uniao nacional dos trabalhadores caboverdianos central sindical UNTC-CS). Since 1991, several unions and associations of a professional nature have come into being. The Constitution recognises the right of association and the right to strike. However, despite the policy of privatisation and the unemployment that has been one of its consequences, the unions of Cape Verde remain weak and have difficulty mobilising support.
New legal provisions
governing the Press have also been ratified by the Parliament, which has removed all forms
of censorship. These measures have led to the creation of a National Communication Council
and a new status for journalists. Press freedom has been strengthened and all political
parties are ensured access to public media. As well as this, the Constitution also
stipulates, for example, that the authorisation of the administration is not required to
found a newspaper or publication (Art. 46 in 11 points).
Alongside the government newspaper Novo Jornal Cabo Verde, the main publications in the written press are: the dailies A Semana, critical of the government, and Correio 15, close to the opposition; the monthlies Terra Nova, close to the Catholic Church, and Artes e Letras, a cultural journal; the twice-monthly Noticias.
As well as Radio Nacional de Cabo Verde, the official State station, there is also Radio Nova, in the hands of members of the Church. These two stations cover the whole of the country. International radio stations such as Radio France Internationale (RFI) and Portuguese International Radio Broadcasting (RDP-I) broadcast on the FM band in certain towns. Television is still a State monopoly.