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Cablegate: Senegalese Socialists in Search of Legitimacy

VZCZCXRO6523
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHDK #2134/01 3061226
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 021226Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY DAKAR
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9481
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 DAKAR 002134

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

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

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL KDEM SG
SUBJECT: SENEGALESE SOCIALISTS IN SEARCH OF LEGITIMACY


SUMMARY
-------
1. (SBU) Senegal's main opposition party, the Socialist Party (PS),
held its 14th Congress on October 27-28, 2007. Under the theme of
"nouvel lan," they announced the beginning of a new march to regain
the power they lost in 2000 when President Abdoulaye Wade's victory
ended 40 years of Socialist rule in Senegal. Although a Congress is
supposed to be held every three years, the PS's last congress was in
1996, leading to questions of the leadership's legitimacy. Through
a democratic process of elections at grassroots levels, the party
confirmed Ousmane Tanor Dieng as its Secretary General. However, if
Dieng has defined a new strategy favoring confrontation with Wade,
he seems to have failed to relegate the PS's old guard and promote a
new leadership that embodies the alternative that the PS is claiming
to offer to the masses who are dissatisfied with Wade's government.
END SUMMARY.

THE END OF A CIVILIZED OPPOSITION
---------------------------------
2. (SBU) The PS has indicated that it will no longer be a civil
"Opposition Republicaine," and will adopt more confrontational
approaches in response to Wade's aggressiveness. This new strategy
was underlined by the election of Barthelemy Dias, as Head of the
Youth Movement. Dias earned his political spurs in 2006 by being
imprisoned for denouncing bad governance and corruption in the Wade
government. Dias supports meeting fire with fire to counter any
violent actions that the ruling Democratic Party of Senegal (PDS)
may launch against the PS. Ms. Aminata Mbengue Ndiaye, who does not
shy away from confrontation with Wade, has been reelected as head of
PS women's movement. She was the first PS leader to organize a real
demonstration against Wade in her hometown of Louga. The PDS
responded by ordering arbitrary police arrests that a judge
eventually threw out. Dieng, energized by his new legitimacy, set
the tone of the PS Congress by vigorously denouncing Wade's
policies. What was remarkable at the Congress is that Dieng,
reputed to be gray, rigid, and introverted, seems to have overcome
his lack of charisma by cracking jokes and appearing relaxed and
confident.

A NEW VISION
------------
3. (SBU) The PS Congress outlines a new vision and a new way of
doing business, under the slogan "Nouvel Elan." The new party
platform envisages taking small steps to break away from the past.
The corner stone of the PS's new communication strategy will be
"telling the truth to the people." They will, with or without
Wade's accord, organize a "National Dialogue" to build a consensus
with other political movements on what Senegal's priorities should
be. Dieng calls this new approach "consensus democracy to
supplement the weaknesses of majority democracy." In Dieng's view,
Wade has corrupted the mechanism of the majority by tinkering with
elections and appointing sixty- five per cent of the members of the
recently recreated Senate. This consensus will be the foundation
upon which they plan to regain power. The PS believes that no
single party can win transparent elections in Senegal, and that a
coalition is needed to defeat Wade. Gorgui Ciss, Chair of The
Network of Socialist Academics at Dakar University told Pol FSN, "We
will go beyond alliances based on the current to build an alliance
based on doctrine and the long term. This may go as far as merging
parties." The PS vowed in its introductory report presented to the
Congress that it will abandon the practice of "clientelism and the
purchase of votes" for the promotion of political activism that is
"an act of faith rather than an investment."

SENEGAL'S DEMOCRACY IS IN TROUBLE
---------------------------------

4. (SBU) The Socialists deplore what they consider to be the
institutional crisis that is affecting Senegal. They are deeply
worried by Wade's supremacy over all the institutions of State
saying that it has resulted in the trivialization of the Government
and a loss of credibility for the National Assembly, which has no
real opposition party as a result of the PS decision to boycott the
last legislative elections. The PS also denounces Wade for
weakening of the judiciary and the alleged bribing of judicial
officials by the executive branch officials. The Socialists also
condemn the erosion of the separation between religion and state,
the erosion of the rule of law, and the weakening of national unity
through Wade's policy of divide and rule that plays on ethnicity,
regionalism and religious denominations.

THE USUAL SUSPECTS
------------------

5. (SBU) While the Socialists succeeded in legitimizing their
Secretary General they failed to bring about change in the party's

SIPDIS
leading organs such as the "Bureau Politique" and "Comite Central."
Mr. Khalifa Sall, who is in charge of elections for the PS and who
chaired the Congress, is thought by many Senegalese as representing
the old PS regime that was rejected in 2000. Ms. Aissata Tall Sall,

DAKAR 00002134 002 OF 002


the leading PS figure in the region of Saint-Louis and one of the
party's more popular names, told Pol FSN that the leadership was so
afraid to announce the names of the party leadership that they
instead asked the Congress to give the Secretary General and his
entourage a blank check to shape the party's leading organs in the
coming weeks. If the old guard should prevail, it will create
frustration among those who are advocating change within the party.
They will interpret an old guard victory as a slap in the face of
younger leaders from the network of academics or youth movements
such as Vision Socialist who they say are vital for the party's
renaissance.

COMMENT
-------

6. (SBU) Although the PS is not represented in the National
Assembly as a result of its own disastrous decision to boycott the
last legislative elections, the PS has for the time being survived
Wade's vigorous and repeated attempts to eliminate it from the
political scene. However, it is still faced with the challenge of
installing the kind of leadership that will get rid of the stigma of
corruption and inefficiency that many Senegalese still associate
with the PS of old. The Fourteenth Congress heralded a new vision
and strategies for dealing with Wade and the ruling PDS but failed
to tackle this urgent issue of developing a credible alternative to
the PDS program. If Dieng cannot surmount this challenge for fear
of alienating his entourage, it will be extremely difficult for the
party to lead a significant coalition and become a true force for
change in the eyes of Senegalese voters.

SMITH

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