Cape Verde - Political background

The Cape Verde islands experienced the longest period of European colonization of any African nation. The Portuguese remained in direct control of this island archipelago from 1460 to 1975. In their struggle for independence from Portugal, beginning in the 1950s, the people of Cape Verde linked their fortunes to that of Guinea Bissau on the West African mainland under a unified movement, the PAIGC (African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde), formed in 1956. This movement was headed by Amilcar Cabral, whose father was Cape Verdean and whose mother was Guinean. Due to Cabral's influence on other independence movements in the region, Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau hold an important position in African nationalist history. The armed struggle against the Portuguese lasted from 1963 until 1974 when a negotiated peace settlement was arranged. While achieving independence for themselves, the Portuguese African resistance movements, including those of Angola and Mozambique, had succeeded in bringing down the fascist Portuguese government in Lisbon. Elections were held in June 1975, and the Republic of Cape Verde was declared formally independent from Portugal on 5 July.

Amilcar Cabral was assassinated in 1973 in a Portuguese-backed coup attempt. The secretary general of the PAIGC, Aristides Pereira, became president following the 1975 elections. For the first few years of independence, Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde attempted to pursue a formal union. In 1980, Cape Verde was officially declared a single-party state under the PAIGC, with all other political parties banned. However, that same year the president of Guinea-Bissau, Luiz Cabral (brother of Amilcar Cabral and considered a Cape Verdean through his father), was removed from office in a coup. The Cape Verdeans responded by separating from the PAIGC and forming in 1981 a separate party, the PAICV (African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde).

For the next 10 years, Aristides Pereira ruled over Cape Verde but also oversaw the transition to a true multi-party democracy. In the mid-1980s, non-PAICV members became increasingly and openly involved in public life, including election to the national assembly. The Pereira regime also began the process of privatization that has been increased in recent years.

The government consists of a president elected for five-year terms under direct universal suffrage. The National Assembly, a unicameral legislature, contains 72 members elected for five-year terms by proportional representation. The prime minister is elected by the National Assembly and officially appointed by the president. The prime minister appoints the Council of Ministers from members of the National Assembly. The Constitution adopted in September 1992 was revised in July 1999, giving more powers to the president.

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