Senegal’s President Macky Sall announced in early February that presidential elections, initially scheduled for 25 February, could be postponed indefinitely. The announcement has raised fears of well-liked protests, violent repression, a as soon as democratic president reworking into an authoritarian ruler – and perhaps even some other coup d’état in west Africa.
There was a flurry of coups within the area since 2020 – Mali in August that year adopted via a second in 2021. Guinea additionally noticed a coup that 12 months and Burkina Faso a 12 months later. In July 2023 the army took keep watch over in Niger.
Senegal hasn’t ever suffered a coup d’etat and has been thought to be the area’s most stable democracy.
Since independence in 1960 it has had 3 non violent transitions of energy. First in 1980, from Leopold Senghor to Abdou Diouf; then, in 2000, from Diouf to Abdoulaye Wade; after which, in 2012, from Wade to Sall.
In political science terminology, a democracy is thought of as consolidated handiest after a “double turnover”. That is when an opposition occasion which got here to energy thru democratic elections (the primary turnover) itself palms over energy to its opposition after dropping democratic elections (the second one turnover).
I’m a political scientist and researcher with an passion in African politics and democracy development. In accordance with my enjoy, I consider Senegal is outstanding in west Africa.
The rustic has loved a “triple turnover” of energy thru democratic elections. But all 3 of those non violent democratic transitions have been preceded via a disaster with incumbent presidents making an attempt to stay in workplace past their constitutional mandate.
Senegal’s democratic credentials looked to be cemented via the truth that not one of the presidents succeeded in staying on unconstitutionally.
This observe file will have to be used to guage the potentialities of a brand new president coming to workplace.
A style west African democracy
Over the last 4 many years Senegal changed into identified for its relatively independent media and loose expression. The presidents of Senegal all controlled, in the end, to step down from energy. This allowed elections to grow to be the one recreation on the town.
Senegal is rated “partly free” via Freedom Space in its Freedom in the World 2023 record. The think-tank makes use of a suite of standards equivalent to political rights and civil liberties to classify international locations as loose, in part loose and no longer loose. Senegal ratings neatly in some spaces, like instructional freedom and people’ proper to practise and specific their religion or non-belief in public. But it surely falls down in others, equivalent to limiting folks’s proper of meeting and violently dispersing some demonstrations.
Even though common elections are held, each and every one among Senegal’s leaders began off neatly, then tried to stick in energy longer than the designated time.
Leopold Sedar Senghor changed into Senegal’s first president after independence in 1960. He got here to energy at the again of his recognition as an highbrow of the “négritude” motion, as a democratic opponent of French colonialism and anyone who had fought for freedom.
However, in 1963, 1968, 1973 and 1978, he staged presidential plebiscites in order that he may just stay in workplace.
Then, in December 1980, after 22 years in workplace, he decided to step down and surrender to his designated successor, Abdou Diouf.
Abdou Diouf had the similar temptation. He held directly to the presidency till many years of non violent, principled, democratic opposition led via Abdoulaye Wade pressured him to just accept his dropping bid for re-election in 1999.
Wade served time in jail following an extended combat for energy, and was once pressured into exile in Paris. He went on to guide a well-liked motion that ousted the long-ruling Socialist Birthday celebration and Diouf.
He promised to wash up the corruption inherent in single-party rule. However against the top of his 2d mandate in 2009, he too started to mimic his predecessors. Wade spent his final years within the presidential palace trying to win a 3rd time period. When that didn’t paintings he named his son Karim Wade as his dynastic successor. However Karim Wade was once convicted of corruption and his father’s needs weren’t fulfilled.
After his re-election in 2019, he named an uncharismatic technocratic high minister, Amadou Ba, as his quantity two. This grew to become his former high minister Aminata “Mimi” Touré into his opponent. (She is now operating for president.) It additionally ensured that he would no longer face a chief minister gaining popularity than himself.
Sall obviously sought after to run for a 3rd time period. But he renounced that choice in 2023, and counseled Amadou Ba as his candidate for succession.
The final major opposition candidate left in 2023, after the exclusion of Karim Wade, was once Ousmane Sonko. A social media character, he’s from time to time known as the “Trump of Senegal” on account of his stunning statements, that have endeared him to younger Senegalese.
In one instance, he stated “those that have dominated Senegal from the start should be shot.”
There could also be a extra critical aspect to Sonko, a former tax inspector who investigated corruption within the Sall govt. He revealed a book about oil and gasoline corruption in Senegal which implicated the Sall govt.
His supporters have all the time maintained that the fees have been trumped up on account of his opposition to the Sall govt.
Sonko was once acquitted at the rape rate however convicted for “corrupting the formative years”. Younger folks took to the streets in protest, calling Sall a tyrant. Sall used the repressive equipment of the state to quell the protests.
Then, on 4 February, as campaigning was once about to start, in an exceptional transfer Sall announced that he was once suspending the election indefinitely, bringing up a dispute over the candidate checklist.
Protesters and police clashed in Dakar.
Tensions persevered to upward thrust. As opposition leaders and supporters introduced protests, the federal government imposed restrictions on get entry to to the web.
On 5 February parliamentarians have been requested to vote on suspending the election till 5 December. A protracted and heated debate ensued. A number of opposition lawmakers have been forcibly got rid of from the chamber whilst the police used tear gasoline to disperse protesters accumulated out of doors the parliament development.
In my opinion Senegal is a consolidated democracy. It has handed thru 3 non violent democratic transitions of energy from a ruling occasion to the opposition.
The optics of the current second are under no circumstances excellent. However previous enjoy suggests a brand new president may just nonetheless come to workplace, both from the ruling occasion or from the opposition.