When in August 2011 Jorge Carlos de Almeida Fonseca of the Movement for Democracy (MpD) party was elected president, Cabo Verde entered a period of cohabitation. Power sharing between the president’s party and the ruling African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde (PAICV) under the leadership of prime minister José Maria Neves has generated political tensions between the president and prime minister. Conflicts have occurred over the appointment of state officials and foreign policy.
It is the first time that Cabo Verde has experienced cohabitation – the situation where the president’s party is opposed to the prime minister’s party and the president’s party is not represented in the cabinet. Since the first multi-party elections, held in January 1991, the parliamentary majority and presidency have always been controlled by the same party. From 1991 to 2001 the MpD controlled both institutions and from 2001 to 2011 the PAICV. In the legislative elections of February 2011 the PAICV won 38 seats out of a total of 72 seats in parliament. The MpD won 32 seats and became the country biggest opposition party. Therefore, even though, the August 2011 presidential election might be considered a ‘honeymoon’ election, the newly elected ruling party’s candidate failed to win, ushering in a period of cohabitation.
Political tensions developed between the MpD and the PAICV over the appointment of members of the so-called ‘external organs of parliament’ such as the Media Regulatory Authority (ARC), the Data Protection Authority (CNPD) and the National Elections Committee (CNE). These nominations need to be approved by a supporting vote of a two-thirds majority in parliament. In other words, the ruling party and the opposition need to reach consensus on the members of such organs. Yet, appointments have been delayed several times, leading the ruling party to accuse the opposition of intentionally blocking negotiations.
The absence of political consensus between the two dominant parties has prevented the establishment of a constitutional court. Cabo Verde has no constitutional court even though the 1999 constitutional amendments provide for its creation. This is because the PAICV and the MpD could not reach consensus on the members of the court.
Power sharing has led to intra-executive conflict over foreign policy issues as well. In particular, the president and prime minister publicly disagreed on who should represent Cabo Verde at the Africa summit scheduled for August 2014 in Washington. According to the prime minister, the government is responsible for the foreign policy and not the head of state. The prime minister made clear that Cabo Verde adopted a semi-presidential system and not a presidential system. The president, for his part, said that it was too early to talk about these issues eight months ahead of the summit.
Legislative and presidential elections are scheduled for March and August 2016, respectively.