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close this bookThe Courier N░ 127 May - June 1991- Dossier 'New' ACP Export Products - Country Reports Cape Verde - Namibia (EC Courier, 1991, 104 p.)
close this folderCountry reports
close this folderCape verde: A mudanša - change
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentAn interview with the President, Antonio Mascarenhas Monteiro
View the documentProfile
View the documentAn interview with Prime Minister Carlos Veiga
View the documentTourism - the engine of future growth
View the document‘...and not a drop to drink’
View the documentThe Cape Verdeans and America
View the documentCooperation with the EEC

An interview with the President, Antonio Mascarenhas Monteiro

‘A single party bears the seeds of dictatorship’

Who would have thought a few months ago that Antonio Mascarenhas Monteiro - Tony, as they call him on the thousands of election posters still to be seen all over the islands - would be elected President of the Republic by three out of four voters in the wake of an MPD victory and with that party’s support? No-one. And certainly not Tony. He was hesitant about standing for supreme office, as if unwilling to put himself forward, right up until the last minute. For this is a modest man, it is true, who opens the door of his little house in Praia himself, seeing in and out visitors to the home he intends to live in even after taking up his duties.

Antonio Mascarenhas, who had a spell with the Guinean maquis in the fight for independence before training as a lawyer in Louvain (Belgium), has been President of the Supreme Court for the past 10 years and, at the age of 47, is representative of his country. The Courier met him just a few weeks before the official investiture on 22 March.

· Mr President, were you surprised at your showing at the elections?

- Not at all. During the early election campaign from December to 14 January, when the campaign proper started, I realised I had a very good chance of a comfortable win, so I wasn’t surprised. One or two of the opinion polls even suggested I would do a bit better.

· The post is a rather unusual one in this country now, isn’t it, because, unlike your predecessor, you have no political responsibilities, do you? Or have I got that wrong? How do you see it?

- A President of the Republic, I believe, still has political functions even in a semi-presidential system. The President’s powers have not yet been fixed, that is true, and the Assembly is going to revise the constitution to take care of that soon. But the President, to my mind, has moral authority. He may also wield influence, which is very important in a country like ours. There are some fields in which, traditionally, the President can intervene, of course, like foreign affairs and national defence. He can have an influence I believe, nevertheless.

· Will the present external relations policy he changed at all?

- No, not fundamentally, because our existing relations, particularly with the European countries and the USA and the African countries, have to be kept up and taken further if at all possible. Cape Verde’s involvement in our sub-region of Africa and in inter-African organisations like ECOWAS and the OAU will be more important than it was before. We are going to try and see if we can do a little bit ore than before.

· You are still a young man and you could perhaps have chosen a more active job than that of father of the nation...

- That doesn’t depend only on me. As you know, the President’s powers have yet to be defined. I do not personally refuse to wield wider powers than those currently enshrined in the constitution. But the Assembly has to decide what my powers are first and that 1 shall act in the light of them afterwards. I can’t tell you now that I know the Assembly will be revising the constitution in a month’s time and I shall have such and such a power when it has finished. That would be very unwise of me. But I do know that the idea is to redefine the powers of the President.

· The election campaign has apparently left signs of a split in the population. Is that so?

- No, I don’t think so, because there was a massive vote for one candidate. My opponent only got 26% of the votes, but I don’t believe that 26% of Cape Verdeans look upon themselves as an enemy faction of the majority which voted for me. The campaign was hard, there is no doubt about that, once my opponent and his team realised that their chances of winning were minimal. As I said, it was obvious in January that I was going to win. All the surveys said so and the best survey is contact with the people. I was enthusiastically received everywhere I went. There was great euphoria’ whereas they were so cool with him that he sometimes had to cut his meetings short.

· Why do you think the people stopped hacking the PAICV and the former President?

- I think because a single party in power for 15 years is too much. A single party bears the seeds of dictatorship and nepotism and some abuse of power, although things never got beyond a certain point in Cape Verde, of course... People who are in power for years get arrogant in the end too, because they are accountable to no-one, and that is the mentality which led to disenchantment with the PAICV and its regime.

When you are there for so long, you start protecting your friends and spending money in ways not always catered for by the law. And then you get power-weary. Even in democracies, this leads to the party in power being thrown out and the phenomenon is even more marked in a single party.

· Cape Verde has taken the same path as Sao Tomanother island country and a Portuguese-speaking one as well. Will democracy catch on faster on Portuguese-speaking islands, do you think?

- I don’t know. I think it’s just a coincidence. It could well have been Guinea and Benin instead of Sao Tomnd Cape Verde, for example.

· Except that those countries leave lots of political parties and Cape Verde hasn’t. Is there room for more parties here?

- There’s always room. Indeed, there is a law which provides for political parties to be set up. All a group of men and women have to do is decide to form a party and they can. Two parties are being legalised at the moment.

· If these parties were legal, might they not take some of the MPD’s popular support?

- Yes they might. If you are trying to beat a single party system on your own and you have popular support, you are bound to catalyse the whole of the opposition. But if there were other political forces, I think that the votes would be spread right across the opposition.

· In future, then, you expect to gain fewer roses?

- Of course, because if there are other parties out there, they are bound to get votes too.

· Will the new team have the people it needs to put its policy into practice?

- Yes, I think we have a sound government team of competent people here, but when it comes to putting policy, economic policy especially, into practice, it is not just people you need. You have to have material resources and that does not just depend on us. As you know, Cape Verde is a very poor country which depends above all on international cooperation to go on living.

· But aren’t you worried that in a country run by the PAICV for so long, the senior people might stay loyal to them?

- That is not the question. Those who belong to the other party are entitled to go on working. They will be used a; cadres, as Cape Verdean citizens. We are short of senior people, in fact, although we are perhaps not so badly off as other countries in this respect. There is a lot of ground to cover here too, I think.

A.T.