The National Electoral Commission of Cabo Verde, CNE, has assured the ECOWAS Observation Mission that preparations were on good course for credible and transparent presidential election in the country on 17th October.
“Everything is going according to plan,” declared CNE Chair, Maria do Rosário Lopes Pereira Gonçalves at the Commission’s headquarters in Praia, the nation’s capital on Monday, 11th October, adding that: “sensitive and non-sensitive electoral material have already been dispatched to CNE offices” across the Islands’ country with estimated 550,000 people and its large diaspora population.
For the presidential election being contested by seven candidates with two frontrunners, who had both served as Prime Minister, the CNE registered 398,864 eligible voters, including 56,208 Cabo Verdeans or 14.09% of the total abroad.
Dr Gonçalves, the outgoing President of the governing board of the ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC), briefed the regional Observation delegation led by Mr Francis Oke, Head of the ECOWAS Electoral Assistance Division, on CNE’s preparations for a seamless electoral process, including electronic transmission of results.
Since its independence from Portugal in 1975, and the first democratic poll in 1991, Cabo Verde has conducted elections adjudged by international observers as free and fair, with official results announced within 48 hours after balloting. Provisional results are known at the polling units, which records results in a Tablet. The official copy signed by polling officials and agents of the candidates is transmitted to CNE, which announces the official result.
The CNE Chair expects the same outcome from the 17th October poll, noting that while “there are no perfect elections; no major negative incident has been reported.”
On the allegation of vote-buying raised by one of the presidential candidates, she said the CNE had called the candidate to order, warning against encouraging voters “to accept incentives, including money, but voting their conscience,” which she described as “unconstitutional and a disrespect to the voters.”
“If there is evidence of fraud, the candidate should produce it as required by the electoral law and the constitution,” the CNE Boss said, adding: “so far, CNE has not received any official complaints or evidence” of any malpractice in the electoral process.
Before kicking off consultations with political stakeholders in the country, the observer team was received by Dr Samuel Lamptey, the ECOWAS Resident Representative in Cabo Verde and members of his staff.
Joined by an official of the ECOWAS Centre for Renewable Energy (ECREEE), which also based in Praia, the Resident Representative underscored the peaceful political atmosphere in the country and the non-partisan disposition of the candidates in adherence to the constitution. He noted that beyond the country’s small size, the fact that “the people speak one language, with no allegiance to traditional rulers and less tribalism” unlike other countries in the region, could account for the political stability.
Electioneering, which started on 30th September until 15th October, includes televised national debates by the candidates, who are running on their personal recognition, but with political party support in the background. The campaigns also feature bill boards, banners and moving vehicles fitted with loudspeakers blaring messages to voters. The Archipelago operates a semi-parliamentary system where the Prime Minister dominates the executive, with the President acting as an arbitrator.
The seven candidates gunning for the top post are Jose Maria Pereira Neves, Carlos Alberto Wahnon de Carvalho Veiga, Fernando Rocha Delgado, Gilson Joao dos Santos Alves, Helio de Jesus Pina Sanches, Joaquim Jaime Monteiro, and Casimiro Jesus Lopes de Pina. The two main contenders are Neves, 61, supported by the opposition African Party for the Independence of Cabo Verde, PAICV, and Veiga, 72, supported by the ruling Movement for Democracy, MpD and the breakaway Democratic and Independent Cabo Verdean Union, UCID.
Incumbent President Jorge Carlos Fonseca, in power since 2011, is not running, having reached the maximum limit of two terms allowed by the Constitution. A successful candidate requires 50% +1 vote to win the presidency, with a run-off, or second round fixed for 31st October, if no candidate meets that threshold.
Under the constitution, there is no voter card; voters cast their ballots on presentation of their National ID Cards. Candidates for elective offices are also not required to pay election fees/deposits. Instead, they are paid an amount per vote received after an audit of the campaign and political party finances.
The ECOWAS Observer group includes Long-term Observers (LTOs), a Technical Support Team from the ECOWAS Commission and a Core Team of experts on various aspects of the electoral process, including Legal, Constitution, Party politics, Gender and the Media/Communicatins, supported by GIZ, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (the German Development Cooperation Agency).
Forty (40) Short-term observers (STOs) will later join the Mission, all headed by Niger’s former Interim President Salou Djibo. The Mission’s remit is to closely monitor the three critical stages of the electoral process, before, during and the immediate post-election periods, document its findings, including best practices and make recommendations for improvement in the electoral processes in the region.