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Sall throws Senegal’s democratic credentials into doubt

Senegal’s President Macky Sall announced in early February that presidential elections, firstly scheduled for 25 February, could be postponed indefinitely. The announcement has raised fears of standard protests, violent repression, a as soon as democratic president remodeling into an authoritarian ruler – and perhaps even every other coup d’état in west Africa.

There was a flurry of coups within the area since 2020 – Mali in August that year adopted by way of 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 1982, 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 simplest after a “double turnover”. That is when an opposition social gathering which got here to energy thru democratic elections (the primary turnover) itself fingers over energy to its opposition after dropping democratic elections (the second one turnover).

I’m a political scientist and researcher with an pastime in African politics and democracy construction. According to my revel in, I consider Senegal is phenomenal 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 by way of a disaster with incumbent presidents making an attempt to stay in place of work past their constitutional mandate.

Senegal’s democratic credentials looked to be cemented by way of the truth that not one of the presidents succeeded in staying on unconstitutionally.

This observe report will have to be used to judge the possibilities of a brand new president coming to place of work.

A style west African democracy

During the last 4 a long time Senegal changed into recognized for its relatively independent media and unfastened expression. The presidents of Senegal all controlled, ultimately, to step down from energy. This allowed elections to change into the one recreation on the town.

Senegal is rated “partly free” by way of Freedom Space in its Freedom in the World 2023 file. The think-tank makes use of a suite of standards comparable to political rights and civil liberties to classify nations as unfastened, partially unfastened and no longer unfastened. Senegal rankings smartly in some spaces, like instructional freedom and folks’ proper to practise and categorical their religion or non-belief in public. Nevertheless it falls down in others, comparable to proscribing folks’s proper of meeting and violently dispersing some demonstrations.

Even though common elections are held, every considered one of Senegal’s leaders began off smartly, 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 popularity as an highbrow of the “négritude” motion, as a democratic opponent of French colonialism and any person who had fought for freedom.

However, in 1963, 1968, 1973 and 1978, he staged presidential plebiscites in order that he may stay in place of work.

Then, in December 1980, after 22 years in place of work, 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 a long time of non violent, principled, democratic opposition led by way of Abdoulaye Wade compelled him to simply accept his dropping bid for re-election in 1999.

Wade served time in jail following a protracted fight for energy, and used to be compelled into exile in Paris. He went on to guide a well-liked motion that ousted the long-ruling Socialist Birthday party and Diouf.

He promised to wash up the corruption inherent in single-party rule. However in opposition to the tip of his 2d mandate in 2009, he too started to mimic his predecessors. Wade spent his remaining 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 used to be convicted of corruption and his father’s needs weren’t fulfilled.

Macky Sall of the Alliance for the Republic party got here to energy in 2012 as a decent, anti-corruption flesh presser. However he too has fallen.

After his re-election in 2019, he named an uncharismatic technocratic high minister, Amadou Ba, as his quantity two. This became his former high minister Aminata “Mimi” Touré into his opponent. (She is now working for president.) It additionally ensured that he would no longer face a main minister gaining popularity than himself.

Sall obviously sought after to run for a 3rd time period. But he renounced that possibility in 2023, and counseled Amadou Ba as his candidate for succession.

The remaining primary opposition candidate left in 2023, after the exclusion of Karim Wade, used to be Ousmane Sonko. A social media persona, he’s occasionally known as the “Trump of Senegal” on account of his surprising statements, that have endeared him to younger Senegalese.
In one instance, he mentioned “those that have dominated Senegal from the start need to be shot.”

There may be a extra severe aspect to Sonko, a former tax inspector who investigated corruption within the Sall executive. He revealed a book about oil and gasoline corruption in Senegal which implicated the Sall executive.

In 2023 sexual attack fees have been fixed towards him, and he was imprisoned. This disqualified him from working within the 2024 election. Sonko endorsed Bassirou Diomaye Faye as his alternative.

His supporters have all the time maintained that the costs have been trumped up on account of his opposition to the Sall executive.

Sonko used to be acquitted at the rape price however convicted for “corrupting the early life”. Younger folks took to the streets in protest, calling Sall a tyrant. Sall used the repressive equipment of the state to quell the protests.

Learn extra:
Senegal: behind the protests is a fight for democratic freedoms

Then, on 4 February, as campaigning used to be about to start out, in an exceptional transfer Sall announced that he used to be suspending the election indefinitely, bringing up a dispute over the candidate listing.

Protesters and police clashed in Dakar.

Tensions endured to upward push. 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 construction.

After all the verdict to delay the poll until December used to be handed with opposition MPs lacking. A host were arrested.

What subsequent?

In my opinion Senegal is a consolidated democracy. It has handed thru 3 non violent democratic transitions of energy from a ruling social gathering to the opposition.

The optics of the current second are not at all excellent. However previous revel in suggests a brand new president may nonetheless come to place of work, both from the ruling social gathering or from the opposition.



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