On Sunday, opposition candidate and former prime minister Jose Maria Neves won the presidential election in Cape Verde, defeating the ruling party’s flagbearer Carlos Veiga.
After the COVID-19 outbreak pushed the Atlantic island nation into deep recession, Neves, 61, will take over responsibilities for stabilizing the tourism-driven economy.
After serving the maximum two five-year terms allowed by the constitution, President Jorge Carlos Fonseca is stepping down.
Neves had 51.7% of the vote based on official results from 99.4% of polling stations, ahead of Veiga with 42.4%. Five other candidates all won less than 2% each.
Veiga, who served as prime minister from 1991-2000 and represents Fonseca’s center-right Movement for Democracy (MpD), conceded defeat late on Sunday.
“The will of the people was heard and the will of the people was granted,” he said in a statement. “I want to offer my congratulations to Jose Maria on his election as president of the republic.”
Neves, of the leftist African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde (PAICV), said he wanted to be a president “who unites, protects and cares”.
“I must say that it is a great responsibility to preside over the Cape Verdean nation in these difficult times, and I receive this victory with the great humility that has always characterized me,” he told supporters.
The transfer of power will be the fourth between the MpD and PAICV since independence from Portugal in 1975, consolidating Cape Verde’s status as one of Africa’s most stable democracies.
Neves will have to work with a prime minister from the MpD after the party maintained its parliamentary majority in an April election.
His first challenge will be the economy, which contracted 14% in 2020 as border closures caused by the pandemic cut off Cape Verde’s beaches and mountains from tourists. It is expected to bounce back this year with growth of nearly 6%.