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Last Updated: Friday, 10 February 2006, 12:36 GMT
Q&A: Cape Verde presidential election
President Pedro Pires
President Pires says Cape Verde is on the right track
Voters in the west African archipelago of Cape Verde go to the polls on 12 February to elect a president.

The parliamentary election - held in January - was won by the ruling African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde (PAICV), which secured 52% of the vote. Turnout was 58%.

How does the system work?

Cape Verde's president serves as the head of state, while the prime minister, who is appointed by the National Assembly, heads the government.

The president is elected for a five-year term. To win, he must obtain two thirds of the votes.

If there is no clear winner, the two candidates with the highest number of votes take part in a second round of voting within 15 days.

Voters must be 18 years or over. About 325,000 Cape Verde citizens have registered to vote. Of these, about 20% live abroad - mostly in Portugal.

Who are the two main candidates?

Of the five candidates vying for the presidency, the incumbent president, Pedro Pires, and the leader of the official opposition, Carlos Veiga, are the front runners.

Pedro Verona Rodrigues Pires

President Pedro Verona Rodrigues Pires is an independence war hero born in 1934 in the archipelago's Fogo Island.

Map of Cape Verde

Pedro Pires did military service in the Portuguese Air Force, after taking time off from his studies at Lisbon University.

In 1961, he returned home to join the anti-colonial African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC).

Pedro Pires became Cape Verde's first prime minister when the country gained independence from Portugal on 5 July 1975. He held the position until the 1991 election, which his African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde (PAICV) lost.

In 2001, he won the presidential election by a narrow margin of 17 votes.

Carlos Alberto Wahnon de Carvarlho Veiga

Carlos Veiga is a founding member of the opposition Movement for Democracy party (MpD).

He became prime minister after the MpD won the 1991 general election and served as premier for the next 10 years.

Mr Veiga was born in October 1949 on Cape Verde's Sao Vicente Island.

He was also educated in Portugal and holds a doctorate in law from the Classical University of Lisbon.

He has served his country as attorney-general, public prosecutor, and director-general of internal administration.

What are the main parties?

Although Cape Verde has half a dozen political parties, only the ruling PAICV and the official opposition MpD have any significant political impact.

African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde (PAICV)

The PAICV was Cape Verde's sole political party from independence in 1975 until 1990.

Formerly Marxist, the PAICV was known as the Party for the Independence of Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC) until 1981.

The two Portuguese colonies had planned to unite, but the plan was dropped after a coup in Guinea-Bissau in 1980 strained relations.

By the late 1980s, the PAICV had dropped its Marxist ideas and embraced free market economics and liberal democracy.

The PAICV boasts of having maintained the isles' political stability.

Much of its support lies in the peasant communities.

Movement for Democracy (MpD)

Formed by pro-democracy activists in 1990, the MpD projects itself as a liberal democratic party. It won the country's first multi-party election in 1991.

The MpD backs free trade, radical economic reforms and closer ties with international financial and economic organizations like the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The party is popular with Cape Verde's urban middle class.

What are the main issues?

The main campaign issue is economic development and the reduction of poverty.

Cape Verde is an arid, mineral-deficient country with limited agricultural potential. The country has a high unemployment rate of 16% and a large proportion of its skilled population lives abroad.

To help boost the economy, the government has tried to lure foreign investors, especially in the tourism sector.

The government has also sought closer economic ties with Europe and the United States. The US has pledged to give Cape Verde $110m as part of its Millennium Challenge Account initiative, which rewards poor countries that show a commitment to economic and government reform.

President Pires has defended his economic policies, saying Cape Verde was "on track as a respected country".

Opposition leader Carlos Veiga has pledged to ensure the establishment of "democratic institutions, democratic environment and a democratic functioning of the state" if he wins.

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaus abroad.




Compiled by BBC Monitoring

Country profile: Cape Verde
03 Feb 06 |  Country profiles


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