Cape Verde votes in presidential run-off

DVBP077 4 P 0613 CPV /AFP-VG62 CapeVerde-vote lead Cape Verde votes in presidential run-off by Allen Yero Embalo =(Picture)= ATTENTION - ADDS details on economy, background /// PRAIA, Aug 20, 2011 (AFP) - Cape Verdeans voted Sunday to elect a new president of the archipelago, which has experienced a decade of economic growth under Pedro Pires but remains vulnerable with meagre natural resources. Cape Verde has become one of Africa's most prosperous and stable countries by flaunting its natural beauty to a growing crowd of tourists from nearby western Europe, but remains highly dependent on international aid. The presidential run-off got under way at 8:00 am (0900 GMT) with scores of voters gathering outside polling stations in the capital Praia. Voters will choose between the candidates of the two parties that have dominated the political scene of the former Portuguese colony for the past two decades. The campaign has been fought on the need to modernise the economy, and keep the boom alive while dealing with unemployment rates of up to 18 percent. Main opposition Movement for Democracy (MFD) candidate Jorge Carlos Fonseca, a former foreign minister, won over 37 percent of votes in the first round. His rival Manuel Inocencio Sousa, minister of infrastructure, transport and maritime affairs from the ruling African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde (PAICV) -- which holds a majority in parliament -- had 32 percent. Cape Verde is a parliamentary democracy whose president plays a ceremonial role. In an interview with AFP, Fonseca said: "I hope to be elected on Sunday to contribute to the modernisation of society and build a stronger democracy." The 60-year-old, who lost a presidential bid in 2001, said his main concern was poverty and unemployment, seen as one of the reasons more Cape Verdeans live abroad (700,000) than at home. Some 20 percent of GDP is estimated to come from remittances. Sousa also played up the need to modernise the state and "transform the economy" of the archipelago, which has an economy dominated by the service sector, which represents 85 percent of GDP. Tourism contributed 25 percent to GDP with 400,000 visitors in 2010. Some 305,000 citizens have registered to vote, and there are 899 polling stations on the islands and 241 abroad, the national electoral commission said. Polls close at 6:00 pm (1900 GMT). Situated off the northwestern coast of Africa the former Portuguese colony consists of 10 main islands, nine of which are inhabited, and eight islets. The ruling party has overseen a decade of growth averaging six percent and a spate of development work including the construction of three international airports, ports, and hundreds of kilometres (miles) of roads. Lauded for its stable democracy, Cape Verde in 2008 became only the second ever country after Botswana to be promoted by the United Nations out of the ranks of the 50 least developed countries. Its status as a middle-income country puts it under further pressure as its eligibility for debt relief and soft loan terms take a knock, and several countries have already phased out aid. According to the UN and African Development Bank-backed African Economic Outlook, Cape Verde is one of few African countries likely to meet the Millenium Development Goals by 2015, if it gets the donor support it needs. To reduce its strong dependence on fuel imports, Cape Verde is building the first large-scale wind project in Africa and plans to cover 25 percent of its needs with renewable energy by 2011 and 50 percent by 2020. bur-fb/gk AFP 211047 GMT AUG 11