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Cart’Afrik : Presidential election in Cape Verde-José Maria Neves or Carlos Vega?

Anti-parliamentarism or presidentialism

Cape Verde’s presidential election scheduled for next October will feature two “big political beasts”: José Maria Neves and Carlos Veiga, among other candidates. But what is the main issue? How can their respective personalities, the nature of their political projects and the exercise of executive powers impact the functioning of public institutions?

By Dr. Pierre Franklin Tavares *

José Maria Neves is a careful man, in the sense that Plato and Aristotle define this trait as the main quality or virtue for a political leader. José Maria Neves puts himself forward as a candidate of the nation and of the citizens. Aristotle would speak of sagacity. Carlos Veiga, governed by an enterprising spirit and driven by an insatiable appetite for power for his own sake and the exclusive service of his clan, could pose a risk to the country. But what would it be? An institutional imbalance, insofar as he and his clan will certainly weaken the office, then weaken the status and finally reduce, in practice, the prerogatives of the Prime Minister. And because Carlos Veiga is driven by presidentialism, which is based on the fact that he has been, since 1991, telling anyone who will listen that he is the “natural and historical leader” of the MpD. If he wins the presidential elections, he will only be able to undermine the three constitutional elements that determine the parliamentary nature of the caboverdian regime. This seems to us to be the main issue at stake in this election: “parliamentarianism” or “presidentialism”?

We should not ruled out that Carlos Veiga will, if forced by circumstances, take away from the Prime Minister the parliamentary base (MPs) that is the source of his legitimacy and legislative power. It is quite likely that in a few months, we will gradually find ourselves with a President of the Republic who has “his” own parliamentary group within the current MpD majority in the National Assembly. Strangely, Cabo Verdean political scientists do not see this risk coming.

“In short, the main institutional issue is determined by the personality and the nature of the projects of the two candidates, which, depending on the victory of one or the other, will change the nature of the current regime through the exercise of their mandate”

In this respect, this electoral contest maintains a rare paradox, a radical antinomy that will be revealed in the exercise of presidential power: José Maria Neves, because of his parliamentary conception of power, will not seek to weaken the current Prime Minister, who belongs to the camp opposite his own, and will preserve the parliamentary nature of the current regime; while Carlos Veiga, because of his presidentialism, will weaken the Prime Minister, who is on his side. This, contrary to all appearances, the main institutional contradiction in this election is not between José Maria Neves and Ulisses Coreia e Silva, Prime Minister (MpD), but between Carlos Veiga (MpD candidate) and Ulisses Coreia e Silva.

In short, the main institutional issue is determined by the personality and the nature of the projects (parliamentary and presidential) of the two candidates, which, depending on the victory of one or the other, will change the nature of the current regime through the exercise of their mandate.

Based on these considerations, we must, regardless of our political camp, first and foremost protect at all costs the Cabo Verdean parliamentary system, on which Cape Verde’s international prestige rests and which makes it one of the greatest democracies and one of the most solid republics in the world. For, as we all know in international relations, after the name and prestige of Amilcar Cabral and the exceptional worldwide popularity of Cesaria Évora, Cape Verde’s main asset is its parliamentary system and the exemplary way with which it operates, that must be preserved and even refined or improved.

The electorate must be made aware of this risk of presidentialism. Consequently, it is eminently patriotic to avoid letting the worm in the fruit”, , according to the well-known French expression, if we want to avoid the rotting of the parliamentary system. Again, this presidential risk seems to be the major challenge in this election. But then, if this is the case, as we believe it is, José Maria Neves’ open parliamentarianism is the bulwark against Carlos Veiga’s hidden presidentialism.

“It is not the person of Carlos Veiga or José Maria Neves that is important here, but only the nature of the exercise of presidential power (parliamentary or presidential) that either of them will be called upon to exercise”

As the attentive reader will have understood, it is not the person (the individual) of Carlos Veiga that we must challenge, but only his personality (character and ambitions) and his ideology (mercantilist and ultra-liberal), which both structure his presidentialism. It is not the person of Carlos Veiga or José Maria Neves that is important here, but only the nature of the exercise of presidential power (parliamentary or presidential) that either of them will be called upon to exercise. Moreover, having been Prime Minister, each of them has experience of the state apparatus and a good knowledge of international relations. However, there is a notable and significant difference between both of them, as two recent disturbing “affairs of state” remind us all: the stunning and incomprehensible diplomatic scandals that are the Alex Saab affair1 (illegal arrest of the Colombian-born Venezuelan diplomat) the Chega affair2 (appointment to the position of Honorary Consul of Cape Verde in Miami (State of Florida) of the multimillionaire Caesar DePaço (César Manuel Cardoso Matos do Paço), financier of the Portuguese far-right Chega party, and his wife Deanna Padovani-DePaço, Honorary Consul of Cape Verde in the state of New Jersey, a twin appointment that some, rightly or wrongly, attribute to Carlos Veiga’s influence on the entire state apparatus. If this is the case, these two facts are harbingers of the possible and even certain dangers that Carlos Veiga’s presidentialism would bring to the “Little Country.

In this pre-campaign phase, Carlos Veiga is tirelessly repeating the argument that a win by José Maria Neves victory would create a diarchy (two powers) in the Executive, that is, at the top of the caboverdian state. He, for this reason, advocates the (organic) unity of the Executive, of which he would be the guarantor. The argument is fallacious, on the one hand, because it is not fair, insofar as Cape Verde has already experienced the “cohabitation” between 2011 and 2016 with a President of the Republic MPD and a Prime Minister PAICV, without the running of the State being disturbed, and, on the other hand, because Carlos Veiga is careful not to let it be known that his presidentialist inclination will end up, sooner or later, by installing a dual power (diarchy) in which the real power would end up being in his own hands; that will correspond, de facto, to the establishment of a presidential regime. José Maria Neves is thus seen as intent on dividing the executive (diarchy) to hide his own calculation of installing a new regime in accordance with his ideology. Thus, under the false pretext and fallacious argument of unity of the state apparatus, he will end up changing (modifying) the very nature of the state, which will cease to be a parliamentary republic.

“Between the risk of institutional commercialization and presidentialization and the prudence of preserving the current institutional balance, on which side will the electorate (domestic and diaspora) be on October 17, 2021?”

Therefore, the first “objective” criterion that should guide the voters’ choice is the following: between the risk of institutional commercialization and presidentialization and the prudence of preserving the current institutional balance, on which side will the electorate (domestic and diaspora) be on October 17, 2021?

This serious question, which refers to the institutional future of Cape Verde, will reveal all its intensity during the possible second round, when the dynamics of marshalling the group’s resources will be posed.

In addition to the first reason, another, historical, tips in favor of José Maria Neves: the fate of the Diaspora, more exactly the justice it has long been waiting for: the political and legal equality with the caboverdian citizens in the country. This demand of the Diaspora is based on an old principle: dating back to the times of Aristotle and Montesquieu, the Republic is the equality (in law) of all before the Law; this equality that Hanna Arendt calls virtue. Therefore, in order to live, survive and perpetuate itself, any (authentic) Republic must constantly reduce inequalities between its members, otherwise it becomes “a corpse” according to Montesquieu. José Maria Neves has formulated this problem much better than Carlos Veiga. In two previous texts, we have shown what the Diaspora means and how the Caboverdian Diaspora constitutes an almost infinite resource; this was the case for the accession to independence, with the greatest son of the Diaspora, Amilcar Cabral. Yet, at the same time, would there have been Cesária Évora without José da Silva, eminent son of the Diaspora in France? It is also in the wake of Amilcar Cabral that José Maria Neves seems to have finally understood and integrated into his future mission the guiding idea that there will be no development of Cape Verde without an exceptional mobilization of the Diaspora, of which he will be the best spokesperson and the most ardent defender, in view of the general equality between all Caboverdians.

The third reason is self-evident: the international situation, marked by two major facts: the crushing health crisis (COVID-19) and the terrible defeat of the West in Afghanistan, which are a heavy warning for West Africa. Therefore, the pandemic that is wreaking havoc there (increased mortality, economic paralysis and recession, falling tax revenues, impoverishment of the population, etc.) and the expansion of Al-Qaeda, which is therefore unstoppable, require the election of a personality not only capable of re-creating close diplomatic ties with all the countries of West Africa, but also capable of strengthening relations with the United States, Russia, China, Japan, France, Great Britain, Israel, the Arab countries, etc. To carry out all these diplomatic projects with energy and dignity, without ever weakening Cape Verde, José Maria Neves seems much better qualified than Carlos Veiga.

In sum, we have retained three main criteria to guide the choice of voters. The first is the preservation of the parliamentary nature of the Cape Verdean regime. The second criterion refers to the principle of equality among all citizens, the foundation of any Republic. The last criterion relates to the idea of sub-regional and international cooperation. In this triple respect, the balance of votes should be clearly in favor of José Maria Neves.

* Pierre Franklin Tavares, a French politician, was born in Dakar on January 19, 1956, to parents from the Cape Verde archipelago.

1 Affaire Alex Saab: entre États-Unis et Venezuela, guerre froide au Cap-Vert, jeuneafrique, 26 August 2021; L’embarrassante affaire du diplomate vénézuélien Alex Saab, financialafik. com, 18 June 2021; Cape Verde: residence under surveillance for a close friend of the Venezuelan president claimed by Washington, Le Figaro, 22/01/2021; Alex Saab: the Supreme Court of Cape Verde authorizes the extradition of this close friend of Maduro to the United States, agence ecofin, 19 March 2021; Une cour africaine ordonne la libération d’un homme d’affaires colombien (African court orders the release of a Colombian businessman), voaafrica, 15 March 2021.

2 Portugal, Chega: radical right-wing party on the national political scene, riitimo, le changement par l’info! https//www.ritimo.org ; André Ventura. Ministro de Cabo verde demite-se devido à ligação de um cônsul…, htpps///radioalfa.net ; Lider Partido Chega toma posição sobre o alegado escândalo com o caso de Consul Extrema-Direita, htpps://asemana.publ.cv/?

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