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Presidential campaign suspended in Cape Verde

2 min

Praia (Cape Verde) (AFP)

Campaigning for the October 2 presidential election in the tiny Atlantic island state of Cape Verde was suspended Friday due to the death of its first democratically elected president.

The authorities declared two days of mourning in memory of president Antonio Mascarenhas Monteiro, 72, who ruled the country between 1991 and 2001 with the liberal Movement for Democracy (MPD).

All public events are cancelled during the mourning period and the campaign, which kicked off on Thursday, will resume Monday.

Following Cape Verde's independence from Portugal in 1975, the African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde (PAICV) ruled unopposed until the introduction of multi-party democracy in 1990.

Incumbent Jorge Carlos Fonseca, 66, had toured markets in the capital, Praia, on Thursday as his campaign kicked off, bolstered by landslide victories in municipal elections held two weeks ago and a general election in March.

Fonseca also represents the MPD and is hoping to return to power for a second term.

He announced his "profound regret and sadness" over the death of "a very important figure in the history of Cape Verde, and above all, a friend" on his Facebook page on Friday afternoon.

In Cape Verde, home to 500,000 people and considered one of the most democratic countries in the world, executive power lies mainly with the prime minister, who is chosen by the largest party in parliament.

Fonseca faces two independent candidates: veteran political campaigner Joaquim Monteiro, 75, a key player in the country's fight for independence from Portugal in the 1970s; and university rector Albertino Graca, 57.

The PAICV has yet to recover from its recent twin defeats and will not field a presidential candidate after rejecting ouvertures from Graca and following the resignation submitted by leader Janira Hopffer Almada.

The archipelago of 10 islands elected Fonseca for the first time in 2011, and he is campaigning on a record of stability and a promise to "confront the challenges of economic growth, reducing unemployment and the need to give our young people more hope."

Cape Verde's strategic position in the Atlantic and its temperate climate mean tourism, commerce and fishing are its main industries.

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