Opposition candidate headed to victory in Cape Verde presidential election

Opposition candidate José Maria Neves appeared headed to victory in Cape Verde's presidential election on Sunday.

With 99 percent of nearly 1,300 polling stations reporting results, Neves was holding a 9 percentage point lead over competitor Carlos Veiga, 51.7 percent to 42.4 percent. 

The first-place finisher must secure over 50 percent of the vote to avoid a second-round runoff, according to Reuters.

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Seven candidates were vying to replace the current president Jorge Carlos Fonseca, who is set to leave office after serving two terms. However, the race was widely considered to be between Veiga, who represents Fonseca's center-right Movement for Democracy, and Neves, who represents the African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde (PAICV).

The economy was the key issue of the election cycle. Cape Verde’s economy contracted by 14 percent in 2020 as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic closed the country's beaches and mountains to tourists, Reuters reported.

After voting, Neves, 61, told reporters he hoped Fonseca and the Movement for Democracy-controlled parliament would remain impartial following the election, according to Reuters.

"The most important thing has already been done. We did the sowing. Let's wait for Cape Verde to win," said Neves, who served as prime minister from 2001 to 2016.

The Movement for Democracy and African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde have accounted for all of Cape Verde’s presidents since its independence from Portugal in 1975, Reuters noted.