Senegal: A Landslide for Wade

Wade on the campaign trail (Photo: AFP)

Parliamentary elections held on April 29 in Senegal resulted in a landslide victory for the Sopi Coalition dominated by President Abdoulaye Wade’s Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS). President Wade was elected in March 2000, defeating former President Abdou Diouf, whose Socialist Party had ruled Senegal for four decades. The Socialists, however, had continued to control parliament. No longer: Wade’s 40-party coalition obtained 90 of 120 parliamentary seats, while the opposition collected 30. The Socialists will have 10 members of parliament, against 97 in the former 140-seat house dissolved in February.

The overwhelming margin of Wade’s victory was at the center of local press coverage after the elections. In a (May 2) commentary in Dakar’s independent Sud Quotidien, Vieux Savane noted that the president now has the power to make changes. “The massive vote of Senegalese illustrated the confidence they had in President Wade,” Savane said. “However, this should not be interpreted as a ‘blank check’ or freedom to do whatever he pleases.” Rather, it should be interpreted as a mandate “to find solutions to the ills that affect the populace.”

Dakar’s independent Wal Fadjri (May 2) echoed opposition fears that the huge majority won by Wade’s coalition would mean that its MPs would blindly endorse government policies. “Most of the members of the future National Assembly lack the aptitude to carry out...meaningful discussion of government projects,” the paper said, adding that in the previous assembly members from diverse political forces were able to amend government-proposed bills. The pro-government Le Soleil noted (May 3) that the president now has “the assets to carry out any reforms he has in mind,” but warned of “a shipwreck of small parties.”

Now that Wade has won a majority in parliament, the expectations of Senegalese are high, Daniel Ole Shani, West Africa regional director of World Vision International, told Dakar’s Panafrican News Agency (May 4). “They are going to demand a lot from him and his cabinet.” But giving a comfortable majority to a president is not dangerous, Shani said, provided “the character of the president is such that he would use that majority for the benefit of the country.”

Wade reappointed Mame Madior Boye, a lawyer, as prime minister. In forming her new 24-member government, Boye gave 10 cabinet positions to members of Wade’s PDS, ruling out the inclusion of the opposition. Asking, “Will the PDS sail alone?” Sud Quotidien warned (May 11), “If the prime minister excludes the participation of the opposition whose mission, she said, is to oppose, then we fear that a certain number of difficulties might emerge with Wade’s key allies who participated in the defunct government of transition.”

But the new cabinet’s composition was greeted positively by most commentators. It indicates that Wade has kept his campaign promises, Demba Ndiaye said in Sud Quotidien (May 12): “Six women altogether, including the prime minister herself.” The new administration will go forward with “a small government team, the confirmed presence of women and civil society, the only criteria being competence,” Le Soleil agreed (May 11).

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