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.
- In June, the government declared a social and economic emergency due to the effects of the war in Ukraine, COVID-19, and recent droughts on access to food and other basic supplies. While the declaration prompted official efforts to stabilize prices and seek international aid, it did not lead to restrictions on citizens’ rights and freedoms.
- The parliament adopted a number of legislative reforms during the year, including measures to combat tax evasion and improve oversight of public spending.
|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 formally appointed by the president but is nominated by and accountable to the National Assembly.
Ulisses Correia e Silva became prime minister in 2016 and secured a new term after his center-right Movement for Democracy (MpD) party won the April 2021 parliamentary elections. In October of that year, José Maria Neves of the left-leaning African Party for the Independence of Cabo Verde (PAICV) was elected president with 51.7 percent of the vote, defeating MpD candidate Carlos Veiga. Neves, who succeeded term-limited MpD incumbent Jorge Carlos Fonseca, took office in November. Observers assessed both elections as largely free and fair.
|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 April 2021 elections, the ruling MpD won 38 seats, the PAICV won 30, and the Democratic and Independent Cabo Verdean Union took 4.
|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.
|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. Nonpartisan independents also participate in elections and play a role in political life.
|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, with the most recent occurring 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, the functioning of public agencies is reportedly affected by partisanship.
|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 are increasingly involved in politics. Nevertheless, social constraints have somewhat impaired their participation. The 40 percent gender quota for candidates required by the 2019 Gender Parity Law is often unmet, though women held 38.9 percent of the National Assembly’s seats after the 2021 elections and 42 percent of the seats in municipal assemblies.
|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 clientelism and graft continue to surround costly infrastructure projects and other spending measures, public procurements, public companies, and management of public lands.
In March 2022, the cabinet approved a revision of the penal code to extend the statute of limitations for offenses related to corruption and influence peddling, correcting an error in a previous amendment. The parliament adopted the revision in December, overriding a presidential veto. Also in December, lawmakers approved a new tax code designed to combat tax fraud and evasion.
|Does the government operate with openness and transparency?||3.003 4.004|
The current government has taken numerous steps to improve transparency, including the online publication of more information about state operations and finances; it generally adheres to legal guarantees of public access to information. However, many individual officeholders fail to comply with asset-declaration rules. During 2022, the government approved an electronic platform for public acquisitions, an action plan for open government, a new statute for the Court of Accounts, and a strategic plan to combat money laundering.
|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.
Publicly and privately owned media outlets are largely free of government control. 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.
In early 2022, three journalists came under criminal investigation for “qualified disobedience” after allegedly disclosing judicially protected information about a police killing. The journalists’ trade union called for an update to the relevant law to clarify the relationship between press freedom and judicial secrecy.
|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.
|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 are 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.
|Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work?||4.004 4.004|
Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) operate freely in the country, focusing on a variety of social, economic, environmental, and cultural issues. Both international and local organizations are able to monitor prison conditions and other human rights indicators without government interference. Under the new statute for the Court of Accounts that was adopted in 2022, the auditing body will monitor the finances of NGOs that receive government funding.
|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.
|Is there an independent judiciary?||4.004 4.004|
The judiciary is independent, though the courts are overburdened, understaffed, and underfunded. During 2022, the courts decreased their case backlog, with 10,160 pending cases remaining in November. The judiciary’s goal was to reduce pending cases by half over the course of four years.
|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 using excessive force, but perpetrators are often investigated and punished by oversight bodies.
Cabo Verde is generally free of major violence or unrest. Nevertheless, violent crime does occur, and street crime, smuggling, and drug trafficking are perceived as consistent problems. The government sought to increase the capacity of law enforcement during 2022, establishing a municipal police force in Sal and reporting on plans to extend the measure to other municipalities.
In 2017, the government permitted the 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 April 2022, the government announced the expansion of the surveillance system to Tarrafal.
Prison conditions are poor and often overcrowded, but the government has been working to improve conditions through steps including changes to legislation, the implementation of a social reintegration program for prisoners, the construction of more cells and bathrooms, and the rehabilitation and expansion of existing facilities.
|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. The country lacks comprehensive antidiscrimination legislation covering all forms of bias. Immigrants, who make up 2.2 percent of the population, often face discriminatory treatment in accessing documents and employment.
Same-sex relations are not criminalized, and the law protects against employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. However, LGBT+ people are reportedly subject to such discrimination as well as physical violence and verbal or online 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.
|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 often the main sources of income for families whose members are not directly employed in the public sector.
|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. Same-sex marriages are not recognized, however. In recent years authorities have strengthened and enforced laws against rape, domestic abuse, femicide, and sexual abuse of minors, but such violence remains a serious problem, and the public resources dedicated to supporting and protecting victims remain insufficient.
|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 percentage of the Cabo Verdean labor force 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.
The combined economic effects of the war in Ukraine, the COVID-19 pandemic, and recent droughts imposed serious hardship on residents during 2022, threatening their access to affordable food and other supplies. The government declared a social and economic emergency in June, clearing the way for efforts to stabilize food prices and solicit international aid.
On Cabo Verde
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Global Freedom Score92 100 free