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Cablegate: The Cost of Immunity

VZCZCXRO3458
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHDK #1557 2071701
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 261701Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY DAKAR
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8875
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS DAKAR 001557

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

DEPT FOR AF/W, AF/RSA, DRL AND INR/AA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV PINS KDEM SG
SUBJECT: The Cost of Immunity


SUMMARY
-------
1. (SBU) On July 17, President Wade asserted his authority when he
instructed the Prime Minister to deliver a message to the National
Assembly in which he promised to purchase a vehicle for each one of
the 150 Deputies, detailed reforms the Deputies needed to undertake,
and instructed them how to formulate their oral questions to members
of the cabinet. With the major organs of government docile, Wade is
in position to pave the way for a successor who can guarantee him
immunity and continue his vision. The resurrection of the Senate is
another nail in the coffin of the Assembly. The opposition, labor
unions and Judiciary remain weak. End Summary.

AN ASSEMBLY WITHOUT CREDIBILITY
-------------------------------
2. (SBU) In early June, a historically low 36 percent of Senegalese
elected a new National Assembly. The low turnout is being
interpreted as a rejection of the Assembly by voters who see the
Deputies as puppets of the Executive. A lack of checks and
balances, a phenomenon not new in Senegalese politics, has been
reinforced during Wade's tenure, wherein powers are concentrated in
the Presidency. In the eyes of many Senegalese, the current
National Assembly lacks legitimacy and relevancy. While one-third
of registered voters voted, this overall figure cloaks much lower
rates of turnout in many areas. Lacking a true popular mandate, the
Assembly risks becoming a mere annex of the ruling party and tool in
the battle between those who may want to eventually succeed Wade.


A SENATE OF YES-MEN
-------------------
3. (SBU) On August 19, members of the National Assembly and local
government officials will elect 35 members of the new 100 person
Senate (Note: the remainder will be appointed by Wade). The main
opposition parties have boycotted these elections as well, labeling
them an electoral farce. In reality, the election has become a PDS
affair and the nomination process within the ruling party has
already ignited a fierce battle among local PDS leaders. For
example, for one seat in the Department of Pikine there are 90
candidates. This pattern is being repeated around the country and
will force Wade to arbitrate the selection process. Although the
Senate will be wholly composed of PDS members, it is important to
note that in the event of a vacancy in the Presidency, it is the
President of the Senate who, for 90 days, will become President ad
interim; this means that Wade can, in effect, pre-position his
successor should he step down before the next Presidential election.


CONTAINING THE OPPOSITION
-------------------------
4. (SBU) In this new paradigm of a discredited legislature, the
question of his succession, and amidst a turbulent social and
economic climate, Wade is showing signs of flexibility. While he
has so far refused to dialogue with opposition leaders, who continue
their boycott and threaten to resort to aggressive measures, the
fact that the people heeded their call for a boycott of legislative
elections shows that they may be in a position to exploit the
current frustrations surrounding the high cost of living and the
energy crisis. To be able to govern peacefully, Wade seems to have
realized that a change of strategy is needed. On July 25 he held
talks with Senegal's largest opposition party, Rewmi of former Prime
Minister Idrissa Seck. He blamed Seck's entourage for the
misunderstanding between the two and indicated his willingness to
reunite with Seck. In the same vein, he held discussions with
Landing Savane, who recently wrote Wade a letter underlining his
desire to have his party resume its coalition with the PDS.

Comment
-------
5. (SBU) With a malleable legislature and a judiciary under his
tutelage, Wade controls Senegal's political future. His goal seems
to be to organize a legal succession (not necessarily via elections)
that will be accepted as a fait accompli by the two other branches
of government. A carefully chosen successor would presumably
guarantee him and his family immunity and maintain his liberal
followers in power. However, manipulating institutions and laws may
well have implications for political stability. The President will
also have to placate the key players within his own extended
political family. This may require additional cabinet changes and a
redistribution of power, further discrediting political actors and
deepening the distrust between the population and their political
leaders. End Comment.

SMITH

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