Cabo Verde is a stable democracy with competitive elections and periodic transfers of power between rival parties. Civil liberties are generally protected, but access to justice is impaired by an overburdened court system, and crime remains a concern. Other outstanding problems include persistent inequities for women and migrant workers.
- As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government pushed back the August municipal elections to October, when 65 candidates competed from the MpD, PAICV, the Democratic and Independent Cabo Verdean Union (UCID), and the Popular Party (PP), and 12 groups of independent citizens on different candidate lists, such as the Movement in Defense of Justice of Labor. Public health measures for the electoral campaign and voting successfully limited the spread of the virus at the polls, and included restrictions on public gatherings and discouragement of door-to-door contact with voters. According to government statistics provided to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 11,800 people tested positive for the coronavirus, and 113 people died by the end of the year.
- In November, the government announced they would be expanding the controversial surveillance camera system into São Vicente, Sal, and Boa Vista, as part of its Smart City project. In February, the government released statistics that the surveillance system had helped prevent over 2,000 crimes in Praia.
|Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections?||4.004 4.004|
The president is directly elected for up to two consecutive five-year terms. The prime minister, who holds most executive authority, is nominated by, is accountable to the National Assembly, and is formally appointed by the president.
Incumbent Jorge Carlos Fonseca of the Movement for Democracy (MpD) was reelected as president in late 2016 with 74 percent of the vote. Ulisses Correia e Silva, also of the MpD, was appointed as prime minister in early 2016, a month after the legislative elections.
|Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections?||4.004 4.004|
Members of the 72-seat National Assembly are directly elected in multimember constituencies to serve five-year terms. In the 2016 legislative election, the MpD, then in opposition, won 40 seats. The African Party for the Independence of Cabo Verde (PAICV) was reduced to 29 seats, and the UCID took 3. International observers assessed the elections as largely free and fair.
With the support of all political parties, the government announced in August 2020 that municipal elections for the country’s 22 municipalities would be held in October 2020. A total of 65 candidates competed from the MpD, PAICV, the Democratic and Independent Cabo Verdean Union (UCID), and the Popular Party (PP), and 12 groups of independent citizens on different candidate lists, such as the Movement in Defense of Justice of Labor. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government adopted public health measures for the electoral campaign and voting periods. Public gatherings and door-to-door contact with voters were not recommended; candidates used both traditional media and social media for their campaigns. Simple safety provisions (using hand sanitizer, wearing masks, and maintaining socially distanced voter lines) were in place during the polls.
The ruling MpD received fewer votes than it did the last municipal elections in 2016. The party won 14 municipalities, losing 5 it had controlled and its absolute majority in 2 others. The PAICV won eight municipalities; in 2016, the party had only won two municipalities.
|Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies?||4.004 4.004|
The legal framework provides for fair and competitive elections. The National Elections Commission (CNE), whose members are elected by a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly, is generally considered impartial. Prior to the 2020 municipal elections, the CNE successfully managed hundreds of complaints regarding the election.
|Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system free of undue obstacles to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings?||4.004 4.004|
There are no significant impediments to the formation and competition of political parties. A number of different parties are active, though only the PAICV and the MpD have held power at the national level. Groups of independent citizens have an active role in the political life, participating in elections.
|Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections?||4.004 4.004|
The opposition has a realistic opportunity to gain power through elections. There have been three democratic transfers of power between the PAICV and the MpD since independence in 1975, the most recent in 2016.
|Are the people’s political choices free from domination by forces that are external to the political sphere, or by political forces that employ extrapolitical means?||4.004 4.004|
The political choices of voters and candidates are free from undue external influence. However, there were some reports of vote buying and of voters being pressured near polling stations during the 2016 elections.
|Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, racial, religious, gender, LGBT+, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities?||4.004 4.004|
Women have full and equal political rights and have become more involved in politics in the last decade. Nevertheless, social constraints have somewhat impaired their participation, with women currently holding 36 percent of seats in the parliament. The enforcement of the 2019 Gender Parity Law, which introduced a 40 percent gender quota for candidate lists at the national and local levels, has proven to be difficult. The gender quota was not respected for the October 2020 municipal elections and in the nomination of trustees for a newly formed public company.
|Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government?||4.004 4.004|
The prime minister and cabinet determine the policies of the government, under the supervision of the National Assembly and the president. The government is able to implement laws and policies without undue interference from unelected entities.
|Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective?||3.003 4.004|
Cabo Verde has relatively low levels of corruption overall, but bribery and nepotism are problems at the municipal level. Allegations of graft continue to surround costly infrastructure projects and other spending measures, public procurements, public companies, and management of public lands.
|Does the government operate with openness and transparency?||3.003 4.004|
The current government has taken numerous steps to improve transparency, including by publishing more information about state operations and finances online; it generally adheres to legal guarantees of public access to information. However, many officeholders fail to comply with rules requiring them to declare their personal assets and income. The government in 2020 ensured factual information about the COVID-19 pandemic was accessible to the public, holding daily press conferences and setting up a website with regularly updated data.
|Are there free and independent media?||4.004 4.004|
Press freedom is guaranteed by law and generally respected in practice, though Article 105 of the electoral code prohibits media organizations from disseminating opinions on or criticism of parties and candidates after a certain date during a campaign period. Though the publicly owned Radio and Television of Cabo Verde (RTC) respected the right of all candidates to free airtime during the October 2020 municipal elections’ campaign period, the candidate from the Movement in Defense of Justice of Labor accused the media of manipulating the political landscape. The PAICV in September 2020 announced that it was filing a complaint against RTC, alleging discrimination in news coverage.
Publicly and privately owned media outlets are largely free of government control. The government in 2019 gave up its power to nominate trustees for RTC, reinforcing the independence of the public broadcasting company, which installed a new independent board of governors in July 2020. However, precarious finances at many outlets can undermine journalists’ job security and their ability to undertake investigative reporting projects. A lack of funding has contributed to the closure of several privately owned newspapers, decreasing the diversity of information in the print sector.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the government did not restrict freedom of information but issued legal threats to media outlets that promoted misinformation about the coronavirus, which drew concern from the Cape Verdean Association of Journalists (AJOC).
|Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private?||4.004 4.004|
The constitution establishes the separation of church and state, though the Roman Catholic Church receives some privileges, such as the recognition of Catholic marriages under civil law. While all religious groups are required to register with the Justice Ministry to obtain tax and other benefits, the process is not restrictive, and there are no limitations on freedom of worship.
|Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination?||4.004 4.004|
Academic freedom is respected, and the educational system is not affected by political indoctrination. Due to COVID-19, in-person classes were suspended in March 2020 and replaced with online learning and educational television classes through the RTC.
|Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution?||4.004 4.004|
There are no significant constraints on individuals’ freedom of expression. The government is not known to engage in online surveillance or improper monitoring of personal communications. Social media is widely used to express private and political opinions.
|Is there freedom of assembly?||4.004 4.004|
Freedom of assembly is legally guaranteed and observed in practice. In 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, freedom of assembly was temporarily suspended. Several demonstrations, however, did take place in 2020.
|Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work?||4.004 4.004|
Numerous nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) operate freely in the country, focusing on a variety of social, economic, environmental, and cultural issues. International human rights institutions, local organizations, and journalists are able to monitor prison conditions and other human rights indicators without government interference.
|Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations?||3.003 4.004|
The constitution protects the right to unionize, and workers may form and join unions in practice. However, the government restricts the right to strike in broadly defined essential industries, and formal collective bargaining is reportedly uncommon in the private sector. Workers in the public and private sectors held strikes in 2020, including staff at the National Institute of Meteorology and Geophysics.
|Is there an independent judiciary?||4.004 4.004|
The judiciary is independent, though the courts are overburdened and understaffed. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the courts improved their performance, reducing the number of pending cases. The government established a small claims court, inaugurated in October 2020, and new judges were appointed during the year. Work went on during 2020 to revise the penal code to clarify rules for parole and to add penalties for gang-related crimes.
|Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters?||3.003 4.004|
Police and prosecutors generally observe legal safeguards against arbitrary arrest and detention. Defense attorneys are provided to indigent defendants. However, due to the limited capacity of the court system, there are often delays in detainees’ first hearings before a judge, and many cases are dropped because defendants in detention are denied a timely trial.
|Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies?||4.004 4.004|
Law enforcement officials are sometimes accused of excessive force, but perpetrators are often investigated and punished by oversight bodies. Cabo Verde is generally free of major crime or unrest. Nevertheless, violent crime does occur, and street crime, smuggling, and drug trafficking are perceived as consistent problems. As of November 2020, 97.1 percent of the prison population were men.
In 2017, the government permitted Chinese technology firm Huawei to install surveillance cameras in Praia and three other cities as part of its Safe City project. While observers voiced privacy concerns, the government has maintained its support for the program. In February 2020, the government reported that the camera system helped prevent 2,000 crime cases in Praia. In November, authorities announced they would be expanding the system into São Vicente, Sal, and Boa Vista.
Prison conditions are poor and often overcrowded, but the government has been working to improve conditions, which includes changes in legislation, the implementation of a social reintegration program for prisoners, and the construction of more cells and bathrooms.
|Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population?||3.003 4.004|
Gender discrimination is prohibited by law, but wage discrimination and unequal access to education persist for women. No comprehensive antidiscrimination legislation exists for the entire population. Immigrants often face discriminatory treatment by employers. As per a measure adopted in July 2020, the government established a High Authority for Immigration to help in the integration of immigrants in Cabo Verde. Same-sex relations are not criminalized, and the law protects against employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. However, LGBT+ people are reportedly subject to physical violence and verbal abuse.
|Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education?||4.004 4.004|
Individual freedom of movement is recognized by law, and there are no significant restrictions in practice. People may freely change their place of employment or education. During the state of emergency declared in March 2020 due to COVID-19, freedom of movement was temporarily suspended. Further, the media reported alleged illegal detentions and violence perpetrated by law enforcement officials implementing government restrictions. However, these abuses seem to have been isolated incidents and only took place in the capital, Praia.
|Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors?||3.003 4.004|
Property rights are generally respected. The legal framework and government policies are supportive of private business activity, though obstacles such as corruption and legal and bureaucratic inefficiency remain a concern. Small and medium-size businesses are one of the main sources of income for families whose members are not directly employed in the public services.
|Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance?||3.003 4.004|
Personal social freedoms are generally protected, including in matters of marriage and family law. Authorities enforce laws against rape and domestic abuse, but such violence remains a serious problem, and insufficient public resources are dedicated to supporting and protecting victims. During 2020, a number of public demonstrations called for stronger enforcement of the law against gender-based violence. According to statistics, 11 percent of Cabo Verdean women are victims of physical violence and 5.8 percent over the age of 15 experience sexual violence. Due to an increase in sexual abuse of minors, the National Assembly late in 2020 held debates to strengthen the penalties against those convicted of such crimes and the criminalizing of sexting to minors and sex tourism involving minors.
Same-sex marriages are not recognized.
|Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation?||3.003 4.004|
The law prohibits forced labor and other exploitative practices, and the government actively enforces such safeguards in the formal sector. However, a high percent of the Cabo Verdean workforce continues to work informally.
Immigrant workers who lack employment contracts remain vulnerable to abuses, and children are reportedly exposed to sex trafficking and illegal work in agriculture or domestic service.
On Cabo Verde
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Global Freedom Score92 100 free