Cape Verde | Freedom House

Freedom in the World

Cape Verde

Cape Verde

Freedom in the World 2014

2014 Scores



Freedom Rating
(1 = best, 7 = worst)


Civil Liberties
(1 = best, 7 = worst)


Political Rights
(1 = best, 7 = worst)


The year 2013 was marked by slowing economic growth (estimated at 4.1 percent) and dangerously expanding public debt. President Jorge Carlos Fonseca and Prime Minister José Maria Neves and their two political parties worked together toward Cape Verde’s stability.

The cooperation did not impede institutionalized checks and balances. For example, the opposition Movement for Democracy (MPD) contested the validity of the law establishing the Council of Communities, which addresses migration and the diaspora, because it was passed without a two-thirds majority. Although Fonseca also questioned it, he approved the law after a Supreme Court review.

Political Rights and Civil Liberties: 

Political Rights: 37 / 40 [Key]

A. Electoral Process: 12 / 12

Cape Verde’s president (head of state) and members of the 72-seat National Assembly are elected by universal suffrage for five-year terms. The prime minister is nominated by the National Assembly and appointed by the president.

In the February 2011 legislative elections, the African Party for Independence of Cape Verde (PAICV) secured 38 seats, while the MPD garnered 32 seats and the Democratic and Independent Cape Verdean Union (UCID) took 2.

In the August 2011 presidential election, former MPD foreign minister Jorge Carlos Fonseca claimed 54 percent of the vote in a second-round runoff. International observers declared the elections to be free and fair.

B. Political Pluralism and Participation: 15 / 16

Cape Verde had only one political party, the socialist PAICV, until a multiparty system was introduced in 1991. Since then, the PAICV and the center-right MPD have dominated politics. The leader of the UCID has stated that the party’s main goal for 2016 is to prevent the PAICV and the MPD from achieving an absolute majority.

C. Functioning of Government: 10 / 12

In January, the secretary of state for public administration admitted that there were “serious ethical problems and strong indication of corruption” in Cape Verde’s civil service. To combat this, he declared that the government was preparing an Ethics Code for the Civil Service. In April, six workers from the Ministry of Finance and one unemployed youth were arrested under suspicion of embezzlement of the government coffers and money laundering.

Cape Verde’s infrastructural development has generated multiple allegations of corruption at the municipal and national levels. In January, the leader of the MPD accused the government of lack of transparency and mismanagement of Cape Verde’s public works. Following confirmation in March of cost overruns and tender mismanagement in the construction of the island of Fogo’s ring road, the MPD accused the government of using the money originally allocated to build homes for supporters and buy Jeeps for the prime minister.

Partly as a result of these accusations, Cape Verde dropped from second to third in the 2013 Ibrahim Index of African Governance. Cape Verde was ranked 41 out of 177 countries and territories in Transparency International’s 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index.

In early 2013 the government announced a series of reforms that would transfer a larger share of central government funds to the municipalities in 2014. Later in the year, the president of the Commission on Parliamentary Reform introduced a draft proposal to promote transparency and ethical behavior in the National Assembly. The proposal would be implemented in 2014.

Civil Liberties: 53 / 60

D. Freedom of Expression and Belief: 15 / 16

While government authorization is needed to publish newspapers and other periodicals, freedom of the press is guaranteed in law and generally respected in practice. The independent press is small but vigorous, and there are several private and community-run radio stations. State-run media include radio and television stations. The government does not impede or monitor internet access. In May the president argued for the introduction of new legal procedures that ensure that the media has easier access to information from public institutions.

According to the 2012 U.S. Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report, there were no societal or governmental incidents of religious intolerance, and the constitution requires the separation of church and state. However, 77 percent of Cape Verdeans belong to the Roman Catholic Church, which enjoys a somewhat privileged status. Academic freedom is respected, and higher education has expanded rapidly.

E. Associational and Organizational Rights: 11 / 12

Freedoms of assembly and association are legally guaranteed and observed in practice. Nongovernmental organizations operate freely. The constitution also protects the right to unionize, and workers may form and join unions without restriction. Strikes are uncommon. A 72-hour prison guard strike took place in October 2013 to force the government to respect the terms of the agreement that was reached with the union and the workers’ association in May 2013.

F. Rule of Law: 14 / 16

Cape Verde’s judiciary is independent. However, the capacity and efficiency of the courts are limited, and lengthy pretrial detention remains a problem. The occasional use of the military as a domestic police force is generating some concern. In August, an MPD legislator accused the military corps deployed to protect turtles in Boa Vista of using excessive force against the local population.

Following a spike in crime in 2012, the Cape Verdean government implemented the Strategic Plan for Homeland Security (PESI), which contributed to a marked decrease in crime nationwide.

Ethnic divisions are not a salient problem in Cape Verde. Still, the government and Cape Verdean society struggle to deal with a fast-growing number of immigrants, particularly from Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, Nigeria, and China.

G. Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights: 13 / 16

While discrimination based on gender is legally prohibited, problems such as violence against women, wage discrimination, and unequal access to education persist. To address these issues, the government adopted a series of legislative reforms, including a 2010 law criminalizing gender violence and a National Action Plan to fight gender violence (2009–11). Same-sex sexual acts are legal as of the 2004 Penal Code. The first Gay Pride March took place in 2013.

Scoring Key: X / Y (Z)

X = Score Received

Y = Best Possible Score

Z = Change from Previous Year

Full Methodology