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Cablegate: Wade Seeks to Extend President's Term in Office

VZCZCXRO9096
OO RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHDK #0828 1981427
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 161427Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY DAKAR
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0822
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS DAKAR 000828

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

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

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINS KDEM ECON SG
SUBJECT: WADE SEEKS TO EXTEND PRESIDENT'S TERM IN OFFICE

1. SBU) Summary: On July 11, the Legislation Committee of the
National Assembly approved a draft constitutional Amendment that
will extend the President's term from five to seven years. If
approved by the Assembly plenary session in a week, it will still
need to be passed by the Senate and subsequently by a Congress that
will bring the two chambers together in a joint session. The draft
presented to the Assembly does not indicate that the law is
retroactive and therefore would not apply to President Abdoulaye
Wade's current term. A senior PDS leader confirmed to Political
Counselor that the change will not affect President Wade's current
five-year term, due to end in 2012. END SUMMARY.

Back to square one
------------------

2. (SBU) When Wade was elected in 2000, the term was seven years.
He reduced it in 2001 to five years through a new Constitution
adopted by referendum. 2000 was a period of democratic euphoria
when transparency and accountability were celebrated and a short
term was believed to be more desirable. A year after his reelection
in 2007, Wade has changed his mind. However, it not believed he is
changing the term for his own benefit, to extend his current term.
Instead, it is believed that by allowing his successor a seven-year
term, he is seeking to impose a period of stability after he leaves
power. A senior PDS leader told Political Counselor that Wade is
concerned about impunity for him and his family after he leaves
office.

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Loopholes
---------

3. (SBU) Several amendments constitutional to solve political
problems have resulted in legal vacuums. Today there are at least
five major constitutional amendments waiting to be ratified by the
two chambers in Congress. Since the creation of the Senate in
February 2007, the National Assembly and the Senate must first vote
separately in favor of the proposed amendment and then meet in
Congress in a join session to vote final approval of the measure.
The two chambers have not met in Congress because the there are no
laws or rules regarding how the Congress will operate. It is
President Wade, and not the Constitution, who decided three days ago
that the President of the Senate Pape Diop will chair the Congress.
There is a legal vacuum as to whether the Congress can make
amendments to laws being examined, all the Constitution states is
that it passes laws by a majority of three fifths of its voting
members. The entourage of the President of the National Assembly
Macky Sall told Embassy that by choosing his friend Diop to chair
the Congress Wade wishes to circumvent and further weaken Sall,
Wade's former prime minister who has fallen out of favor, whom he
does not wish to succeed him.

Comment
-------

4. (SBU) The desire to seek impunity in view of all the
allegationss of mismanagement and corruption under his tenure, seems
to be a factor in Wade's succession strategy. In 2000 Wade's first
measure was to announce that he had pardoned his predecessor,
President Diouf, and his family for any charges that could be
leveled against them. A senior PDS leader told Embassy that that
Idrissa Seck, who may well be next President through elections could
offer pardon to Wade but definitely not to Wade's son Karim. In
this regard, the amendment of Article seven may just be another step
in Wade's strategy to orchestrate a succession that will appear
legal while offering continuity of the system in place.
SMITH

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