Cablegate: Senate Elections: Democratic Misstep?

DE RUEHDK #1816/01 2481641
R 051641Z SEP 07





E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A) Dakar 1283, B) Dakar 1522, C) Dakar 1541

1. (SBU) On August 19, local officials and Members of Parliament
elected 35 senators via indirect suffrage. The ruling PDS
(Democratic Party of Senegal) won 34 out of the 35 "contested"
seats. The only opposition member in the Senate will be a member of
AJ/PADS, the African Party for Democracy and Socialism. The
election was a non-event. The average Senegalese views the new
Senate as a vehicle to provide jobs and perks to the ruling
political class. The main opposition parties boycotted the
elections condemning the fact that out of the 100 members of the
future Senate, President Wade will appoint 65. They are also
demanding a national political dialogue to build a new consensus
around electoral issues, the reform of institutions and the
promotion of good governance. Wade has so far refused such a
dialogue and continues his unilateral reform of institutions. This
dialogue deficit with the opposition, the increase in the cost of
living, and the uncertainties around Wade's succession has the
potential to undermine Senegal's democracy and stability. END

2. (U) On August 28, 2007, the Constitutional Court officially
ratified the results of the August 19 election confirming that the
PDS had indeed won 34 out of the 35 seats up for grabs. Officially
9,624 valid votes were cast out of a possible pool of 13,384
eligible voters. Of that number the PDS received 8,177 votes.

3. (SBU) Speaking on behalf of the opposition, who once again
decided to boycott the elections, Ousmane Tanor Dieng, leader of the
Socialist party noted: "this Senate is sad for our democracy; it is
a shameful and empty institution." Dieng and his colleague are
currently meeting Embassies and Senegalese civil society groups to
denounce Wade's non-democratic reforms and his refusal to meet with
his opposition. A former adviser of President Wade told Pol staff
that the conditions under which Wade is creating the Senate is
reminiscent of the African one-party state of the sixties where the
Head of State distributed positions in Parliament to party members.
He averred that this is a step backward and an implementation of an
old idea of Wade's - to have a Senate that would be an assembly of
"wise men" in the old African traditions of assemblies of the

So Many Questions, So Few Answers

4. (SBU) Many questions remain about a realistic role for the
Senate, its structure and logistics. These include but are not
limited to: what will the Senate do in terms of lawmaking, when will
Wade appoint the remaining 65 Senators, where will they convene,
where will their offices be located, what will be the internal rules
of the Senate, what commissions will be set up, what will its
relationship be with the National Assembly, how much will the
Senators be paid, what perks - such as cars and a petrol allowance -
will be distributed, and which body will represent Senegal in
international organizations such as the African Union?

5. (SBU) These elections underline that the PDS is its own
opposition in the current democratic process. The party consists of
local barons who fight for control of political territories. The
yardstick for measuring success is the capacity to mobilize people
and to show that they provide unconditional support to Wade. These
barons in return are rewarded with cabinet positions or by
endorsement of their candidacies so that they can run in legislative
or local elections. It is such fights at the local level that led
the PDS to lose the Senate seat of Velingara, in Casamance, where
local officials rebelled against Wade and refused to vote for his
nominee. The PDS has threatened to punish those who orchestrated
the rebellion. Though they did not lose other seats, it is clear
that similar mini-uprisings occurred in other areas. AJ/PADS, the
only significant opposition in these elections competed in 18
districts out of the 35 and in many places scored much higher than
expected. For example in Kaolack, where they only have 24 municipal
counselors they won 56 votes. One of the leaders of AJ told Pol
staff that they had benefited from the dissident vote within the

6. (SBU) In reality, the sole importance of the Senate lies in the
fact that, in case of a Presidential vacancy, the President of the
Senate would assume the duties of Head of State and have up to 90
days to organize elections. In effect, the Senate is a Chamber
dominated by faithful PDS militants who are likely to rubber-stamp
whichever succession scheme Wade will chose.

DAKAR 00001816 002 OF 002

7. (SBU) Meanwhile, opposition leaders have met with civil society
organizations to enlist their support for a national dialogue.
Forum Civil, which is Senegal's leading organization in good
governance, has suggested that grassroots groups be involved in the
process so that the political elite does not remain aloof. Civil
society groups are insisting on the need to open up public media to
dissenting opinions, that constitutional rights to demonstrate be
respected by administrative authorities, and that in the Senate a
quota system be used to allow opposition parties to be meaningfully
included in the mechanism of democratic institutions so that the
opposition would have available options other than street

8. (SBU) Wade re-established the Senate not to provide checks and
balances that is so lacking in Senegalese democracy, but to further
divide forces within his party to concentrate more power in his
hands. After his election in 2000, he declared that his ambition
was to have his party rule the country for fifty years.
Constitutional amendments and Institutional reforms undertaken by
his administration have clearly weakened Senegal's democracy while
seeking to give the PDS the means to retain power by enlarging its
sociological base through a process known as "refoundation of the
party" (Ref C). Many segments of society are today demanding that
PDS return to a more open and consensus-based approach to
government. Political organizations as well as labor unions and
rural organizations have called for "Assises nationales" (national
dialogue). The PDS has managed to "purchase" a majority of all
elections by mobilizing significant financial resources to fund its
campaigns and influence opponents and religious leaders. However,
this artificially built majority is becoming fragile in the face of
the deterioration of the purchasing power of the average Senegalese.
A dialogue to build a new consensus on political and economic
issues may soon be necessary if Wade is to avoid growing tension and
conflict with vocal opposition parties and powerful union who are
garnering support from citizens who can no longer cope with
inflationary pressures and believe that his Alternance has forgotten
the poor.


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