Cablegate: Senegal: National Assembly Elects New Speaker
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHDK #1351 3251701
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 201701Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY DAKAR
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1476
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
UNCLAS DAKAR 001351
DEPT FOR AF/W, AF/RSA, DRL AND INR/AA
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINS KDEM SG
SUBJECT: Senegal: National Assembly elects new Speaker
REF: Dakar 1325
1. (SBU) Summary and Introduction: On November 16, Senegal's
National Assembly elected a new Speaker, Mamadou Seck, the former
Chair of the Assembly's Finance Committee. His election ends the
long saga between President Abdoulaye Wade and the former Chair of
the Assembly, Macky Sall, who was ousted after he refused to resign
upon Wade's request. Meanwhile, Sall has created his own political
party. End summary.
Who is the new Speaker of the Assembly?
2. (SBU) Mamadou Seck was until 1996 a member of the Directorate
of the Party of Independence and Labor (PIT) a former communist
party. He left PIT when President Wade, while in the opposition,
asked him to join his party and run for office as mayor of the small
town of MBao, in the suburbs of Dakar. He graduated in banking and
economics in France. After Wade's election, he became Minister of
Transportation and Equipment in 2001 and subsequently Minister of
Infrastructure, from 2002 to 2006. Seck also served briefly in 2001
as Minister of Economy and Finance but resigned from this position
following allegations that he had embezzled funds in the 80s when he
was Managing Director of SOMICOA, a shipping company. A court
ruling subsequently dismissed all charges.
An opportunistic choice
3. (SBU) As Chair of the Assembly's Finance Committee, Seck was the
person who initiated the attempt to have a hearing on how the
President's son, Karim, was spending public money on infrastructure
projects in the run up to March 2008 Organization of the Islamic
Conference (OIC) Summit as head of the presidential OIC preparation
agency known as ANOCI. This attempt infuriated Wade and led
directly to the downfall of Sall. However, in Seck's case, a senior
National Assembly member told Embassy that Seck apologized to the
President and was forgiven. His nomination serves several purposes.
Ostensibly, Wade hopes to show his magnanimity by underlining that
he is not after those who demanded accountability from his son.
Seck is also the most capable political leader in the Dakar region.
Apparently, Wade is focusing his attention on the suburbs of the
capital because he is concerned that it may become a source of
unreast after severe flooding this summer left thousands of people,
who were already living in precarious conditions, homeless. Seck
will seek to recapture this area where Wade's popularity is
weakening. His election will also satisfy the Tijdanes, the largest
brotherhood in Senegal, as he is closely related to their Caliph.
So far all leaders that have headed political institutions were
Mourides, Wade's own brotherhood.
4. (SBU) Seck was elected by a large majority, 133 for and 3
against. Even members of the opposition voted for him as he is
recognized as being competent with strong leadership qualities.
However, the Constitutional changes that led to his election have
reduced the President of the National Assembly from an independent
head of a co-equal branch of government to a subordinate of the
president. It just takes a resolution signed by thirty eight
members (out of one hundred fifty) to initiate a process to remove
the National Assembly president from office. This tool will allow
the Wade to deter any attempt by a National Assembly president to
act independently of the will of the president further eroding the
country's system of separation of powers.