Domestic Politics in Senegal: Part I

By | March 23, 2021

s one of 16 countries located in Western Africa according to themakeupexplorer, the Senegal stands out an unusual Regional ratios political stability and violence. As one of the few African states, it never had to experience a coup. Especially after the exemplary change of power in 2000, it had an almost exemplary reputation as a model democratic state in the region.

But just a few years after the fall of the Wall, the so-called “Alternance”, the negative development began and in the course of the last years of A. Wade’s reign this picture became more and more cloudy. Changes of ministers were the order of the day, the president cultivated an autocratic and often impulsive leadership style, and the opposition complained of undemocratic conditions. At the beginning of President Wade’s second term in 2007, the opposition catapulted itself out of democratic events by boycotting the parliamentary elections and leaving parliament to the ruling party and its allies.

In the run-up to the presidential elections in February 2012 and the discussion about the constitutional conformity of President Wade’s renewed candidacy, there were violent clashes, demonstration bans and violent demonstrations, and Senegal repeatedly made negative headlines.

With the election of Macky Sall as the fourth president of independent Senegal in April 2012, however, another peaceful change of power took place and Senegal continues to be the great exception in the unstable region of West Africa. Macky Sall was confirmed for another term in May 2019.

Parliamentary elections were held in July 2012 and resulted in an absolute majority for the governing coalition. This was in the 2017 elections clearly confirmed. The local elections in June 2014 brought the ruling coalition heavy losses, especially in the major urban centers.

Idrissa Seck election poster for the 2007 presidential election

Idrissa Seck election poster for the 2007 presidential election

Power groups, political participation and elections since the Alternance

The particular hallmark of Senegalese domestic politics throughout the Wade era were the frequent changes of government. Ministers were replaced by President Wade at an almost inflationary rate and in 12 years of PDS government Wade had 6 heads of government.

His first prime minister Moustapha Niasse, an experienced politician, leader of the Alliance des Forces de Progrès (AFP) party and Wade’s most important supporter in the runoff election of March 19, 2000, was history after just one year (Niasse also stood in the previous presidential elections and is now President of Parliament).

One month before the parliamentary elections in April 2001, Wade dissolved the government and appointed Mame Madior Boye from the ranks of the PDS as the first woman to be Prime Minister. In the parliamentary elections, the PDS won a broad two-thirds majority (89 out of 120 seats) and Wade now had an extensive, democratically legitimized power base.

More than 1,800 people were killed in the sinking of the state-run Joola ferry that connected Dakar with Ziguinchor. The national drama sparked a serious domestic political crisis, Wade dismissed the government and tasked his confidante Idrissa Seck with the formation of a new government.

Wade’s political foster child quickly mutated into a domestic rival and was seen by many observers as a potential successor to Wade. After a protracted internal power struggle, he announced his resignation in April 2004 and was probably only just before his impeachment.

In July 2005, the mayor of Thies was accused of embezzlement and remained in custody for the next seven months, until the case was dropped for no reason and he was discreetly released from custody before an important national football match.

After that, Seck was long considered a joker of Senegalese domestic politics, who alternately reconciled with Wade or kept his distance. He finished second in the 2007 presidential election, but in the 2012 elections his long maneuvering seems to have had a negative impact and he was only fourth.

The fourth Prime Minister of the Wade era, Macky Sall, also stood out as a critic and, according to opinion polls, a promising potential successor to Wade and was finally elected fourth President of the Republic in a runoff on March 25, 2012 and in office again in the presidential elections in May 2019 approved.

Sall was head of government from April 2004 to June 2007. After the former interior minister had successfully campaigned for the president and was instrumental in his re-election, he too fell victim to his popularity and was replaced by Cheikh Hadjibou Soumaré.

This, however, had to atone for the devastating defeat of the ruling party in the local elections in March 2009 and surrender his office to Souleymane Ndéné Ndiaye, who held the office until Wade was voted out of office.

Election poster Wade 2007

Election poster Wade 2007

President Wade headed the state for two mandates and enjoyed great popularity for a long time among the population, who saw the iridescent “goor gi” (Wolof: respectful term for an older man) his autocratic leadership style. Wade was able to win the presidential election on February 25, 2007 with an absolute majority in the first ballot with a high voter turnout of 73%, but the dissatisfied votes in the population soon began to increase.

In the course of the presidential election, the main opposition parties accused the president’s camp of electoral fraud and boycotted the parliamentary elections on June 3, 2007. 131 of the 150 parliamentary seats went to the governing coalition SOPI 2007, the remaining seats were distributed among various smaller parties. The turnout was even below 40 percent. The opposition had thus catapulted itself out of the constitutional framework and completely given up the possibility of parliamentary influence. Their attempt to resume an institutionalized political dialogue on the organization so-called “Assises nationales” failed because President Wade did not recognize the political legitimacy of this body.

Election poster Wade 2007 2

Election poster Wade 2007 2