In February 2011 the Partido Africano da Independência de Cabo Verde (PAICV) won the parliamentary election in Cape Verde with a majority of 37 of the 72 seats in the legislature. In August 2011 Jorge Carlos Fonseca was elected President. He represented the Movimento para a Democracia (MPD) party. Therefore, a period of cohabitation began, the first in Cape Verde’s history.
The first year of cohabitation seems to have been relatively peaceful. The president has used his veto on just one occasion. In July Expresso das Ilhas reports that President Fonseca vetoed the Ecological Tax bill. This was a government bill that was supported by all PAICV deputies and opposed by the MPD. Parliament then passed the bill again with the MPD opposing it once more. A Semana reports that this time, earlier this month, the president signed it.
Looking at the reviews of the year in the newspapers, this seems to have been the major event of the last year. Compared with equivalent periods of cohabitation in Romania and Bulgaria recently, the situation in Cape Verde seems to have been relatively calm.
President Jorge Carlos Fonseca of the Movimento para a Democracia (Movement for Democracy, MPD) has given an interview (in Portuguese) with a newspaper, Expresso da Ilhas, about the first 100 days of his cohabitation presidency. You can use Google Translate if you are interested.
In terms of quotes, he says that he is not going to be a president who “is intrusive”, but neither will he be a president who is “silent or absent”. He says that he has regular meetings with the PM, José Maria Neves of the Partido Africano da Independência de Cabo Verde (African Party of Independence of Cape Verde, PAICV).
What strikes me is that first 100 days has been exceptionally calm. I have been checking the Cape Verdean newspapers regularly and there has been no reports of any sort of problems between the president and the PM. In his interview, President Fonseca says, quite rightly, that 100 days is a very short time. However, given the president of Cape Verde is much more than a figurehead, it will be amazing if the rest of the five-year term passes so smoothly.
In that regard, one of the issues that may become a bone of contention is appointments. President Fonseca makes it clear that he has the constitutional right to reject the names of, for example, ambassadors that the government proposes for appointment.
Another interesting element relates to vetoes. The president is asked, twice, how many times he has used his veto power. To my knowledge, he has not used it at all and this seems to be confirmed in the interview. However, President Fonseca makes it clear that his advisers have contacted the prime minister’s advisers and representatives in the Assembly to let them know that the wording of particular bills should be altered. He implies that alterations have been made. That said, no specific example is given.
This is a series of posts that records the cases of cohabitation in countries with semi-presidential constitutions. Cohabitation is defined as the situation where the president and prime minister are from different parties and where the president’s party is not represented in the cabinet. Presidents classed as non-party cannot generate any periods of cohabitation.
Here is my list of cohabitations in Cape Verde:
September 2011 –
President – Jorge Carlos de Almeida Fonseca (MPD); PM – José Maria Pereira Neves (PAICV); government – PAICV
Technically, there was also a very brief period of cohabitation from 1 Feb 2001 to 22 Mar 2001. On 1 February, José Maria Neves of the PAICV took up the post of PM, but the outgoing MPD President António Mascarenhas Monteiro did not leave office until 22 March.
The second round of the presidential election in Cape Verde was held on Sunday.
The Cape Verde Electoral Commission is reporting the following result with 99.28% of all votes counted:
Jorge Carlos Fonseca (Movimento para a Democracia/Movement for Democracy, MPD), 54.1%
Manuel Inocêncio Sousa (Partido Africano da Independência de Cabo Verde/African Party of Independence of Cape Verde, PAICV), 45.9%
This is a really interesting result because only in February 2011 the PAICV won an absolute majority in the legislative election. Therefore, this result will create the first case of cohabitation in Cape Verde when President-elect Fonseca is inaugurated.
The Expresso das Ilhas newspaper is reporting that Prime Minister José Maria Neves has already sent a message to President-elect Fonseca stating that he (the PM) is ready to engage in “institutional collaboration” with the new president.
Cape Verde is a premier-presidential system. So, the new president cannot dismiss the prime minister. In any case, the PAICV has 37 of the 72 seats in the legislature. However, according to the chapter in Costa Lobo and Amorim Neto’s book on lusophone semi-presidentialism, the Cape Verdean president scores 8/9 on the Siaroff index of presidential power, which is a very high score indeed, and 9.5 on the Metcalf-revised version of the Shugart and Carey presidential powers index, which would make the president more powerful than the French, Romanian and Polish presidents, according to Tavits’ recent study.
Therefore, the president is much more than a ceremonial figure. This is likely to lead to an interesting situation over the next few years.
The first round of the presidential election in Cape Verde was held on Sunday.
The Agência Lusa/Expresso das Ilhas is reporting the following result with virtually all votes counted:
Jorge Carlos Fonseca (Movimento para a Democracia/Movement for democracy, MPD), 37.4%
Manuel Inocêncio Sousa (Partido Africano da Independência de Cabo Verde/African Party of Independence of Cape Verde, PAICV), 33.3%
Aristides Lima (Independent – ex-PAICV), 25.9%
Joaquim Jaime Monteiro (Independent), 2.1%
The CNE is reporting that the abstention rate was 47.2%, slightly up from the 2006 figure.
So, the second round on 21 August will pit the representatives of the country’s two main political parties against each other once again.
The outgoing president was from the PAICV. The current PM is from the PAICV. However, the second round could be close. In 2006, the MPD lost by less than 1 per cent.
Following the legislative election last month, Cape Verde’s new government has just been sworn in.
José Maria Neves of the PAICV remains as PM. There are 21 ministers, including 3 secretaries of state. It is a single-party PAICV government. Interestingly, there are 6 independent ministers, including one secretary of state. They hold the following portfolios: Administration, Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Culture, Justice, Communities and External Trade.
The details (in Portuguese) are here.
The legislative election was held in Cape Verde on 6 February. The final result is available here. The turnout was 76.02%.
African Party of Independence of Cape Verde (Partido Africano da Independência de Cabo Verde – PAICV), 51.98%, 38 seats
Movement for Democracy (Movimento para a Democracia – MPD), 41.71%, 32 seats
Democratic and Independent Cape Verdean Union (União Caboverdiana Independente e Democrática – UCID), 4.33%, 2 seats
Labour and Solidarity Party (Partido de Trabalho e Solidariedade – PTS), 0.45%, 0 seats
Social Democratic Party (Partido Social Democrático – PSD), 0.18%, 0 seats
Total seats – 72
So, the ruling PAICV party has, once again, won an absolute majority of seats. Its vote remained stable relative to the 2006 election, though it did win slightly fewer seats. The PAICV has been in power since 2001. The presidential election is to be held in July.
Cape Verde recently passed a constitutional law that changed a large number of articles in the constitution. The changes were published in the country’s official bulletin on 3 May. There is a report in Diário de Notícias that the reform was approved by 64 votes (38 from the ruling PAICV and 26 from the opposition MPD) to zero, with two abstentions from the União Cabo-Verdiana Independente e Democrática (UCID).
The constitution dates back to 1992. There were already major changes in 1999. The 1992 version is available in English here. The 1999 version is available in Portuguese here. The 2010 changes and the consolidated text are available also in Portuguese here.
In relation to semi-presidentialism, the main change concerns Art. 111 and the minimum amount of time between presidential and legislative elections. Now, the one cannot follow the other by fewer than 180 days. Previously, elections would occur within a couple of weeks or a month of each other. Thus, they were quasi-simultaneous. In addition, there is an important clarification in the wording to Art. 142, which relates to the reasons for a dissolution of the Assembly. Now, the circumstances in which a dissolution may occur are specified more clearly. Generally, though, the reform was motivated by a major reform of the judicial system.
In Cape Verde the ruling PAICV party (Partido Africano da Independência de Cabo Verde) and the opposition MPD party (Movimento para a Democracia) have agreed the bones of a deal to change the constitution. Previously, a constitutional committee, the Comissão Eventual da Revisão Constitucional (CERC), had been considering what changes needed to be introduced. At the beginning of this week, the two main parties in the system agreed a common document, the text of which is available in Portuguese here.
The propositions cover a lot of areas, the most contentious of which deals with the judicial system. However, there are a couple of explicitly semi-presidential-related items.
Currently, Art. 142-2 states that the president can dissolve the National Assembly in the case of a serious institutional crisis, but only after the agreement of the Council of the Republic, a consultative body that is a hangover from the Portuguese influence over the constitution. Anyway, it is agreed that the need for the Council’s approval should be abolished.
Also, currently Art. 201-1 states that the government has to resign if it loses a motion of confidence or if it is defeated in two motions of no-confidence. The PAICV want to reduce this to one defeat, but there is no agreement between the parties. It is unclear to me why the opposition MPD would oppose this change, given it would stand to gain if the government were to get into difficulty. However, perhaps they think that if they return to power they could be the victim of the change.