Cape Verde votes for president on Sunday

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Cape Verde votes in presidential elections on Sunday marked by debate over the future of a country battered by a slump in global tourism and worried by surging inflation.

Nearly 400,000 voters, including over 50,000 outside the country, will choose a successor to Jorge Carlos Fonseca, head of state since 2011. There will be seven names on the ballot paper, but all indications are that the race will be limited to candidates backed by Cape Verde's two main parties.

Tourism accounts for a quarter of the economy of the tiny nation, an archipelago of volcanic islands off West Africa praised for its political stability.

But last year GDP shrank by 14.8 percent and many hotels and restaurants closed as the Covid pandemic kept hundreds of thousands visitors away.

Soaring inflation is another concern. Since the beginning of the month, the price of water and electricity has risen by 37 percent, which the authorities blame on rising oil prices.

The two frontrunners among a record seven candidates are both former prime ministers: 72-year-old lawyer Carlos Veiga and academic Jose Maria Neves, 60.

Veiga represents the centre-right Movement for Democracy (MpD), which has a majority in parliament.

Neves stands for the opposition African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde (PAICV), which ruled the former Portuguese colony when it was a one-party state.

Outgoing president Jorge Carlos Fonseca (MpD) cannot run again, having already served the maximum two terms.

Voting starts at 7 am (0800 GMT), finishing at 6 pm, with first results expected the same evening. If no one wins more than 50 percent of the vote, it will go to a second-round run-off between the two leading candidates on October 31.

Sunday's election comes six months after the MpD won parliamentary elections, beating the PAICV into second place.

Between them, the two parties have run the country since it won independence from Portugal in 1975.

Under Cape Verde's semi-parliamentary political system, the prime minister has executive powers while the president acts as arbiter.

- Volcanic archipelago -

Cape Verde is home to just over half a million people, living on 10 arid islands scattered some 500 kilometres (300 miles) off Guinea-Bissau and Senegal.

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