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Cablegate: Senegal: Presidential Term of Office Increased

VZCZCXRO6260
PP RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHDK #0917 2210859
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 080859Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY DAKAR
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0932
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS DAKAR 000917

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: SENEGAL: PRESIDENTIAL TERM OF OFFICE INCREASED

1. (SBU) Summary: On July 28, the Senegalese National Assembly
adopted a constitutional amendment to increase the presidential term
of office from five to seven years. To end rumors that President
Abdoulaye Wade was seeking to increase his term, the GOS finally
inserted in the amendment a sentence in the draft amendment
indicating clearly that the change will not be retroactive.
Opposition parties sought to protest during the vote but the GOS did
not authorize the demonstration deployed public security forces
around the National Assembly to prevent any disruption. END
SUMMARY.

A mysterious change
-------------------

2. (SBU) The initiative to amend the constitution was originated by
President Wade himself. A senior member of the Assembly who drafted
the amendment and its justification under Wade's instruction told
Embassy that he was in direct contact with President Wade's office
on the issue. He said that Wade never told him why he wanted this
change and what his objectives are. He added that Wade himself
asked Minister of Justice Madicke Niang to present last minute
modification to the amendment to state unequivocally that the change
does not apply to his current term. The official rationale provided
by GOS is that elected presidents take at least two years to learn
the job and do not have the necessary time to implement their
projects. Imam MBaye Niang, an opposition National Assembly deputy,
who did not vote in favor of the amendment, objected that Wade
should not take his own limitations as a basis for a constitutional
change.

Wade Can Run in 2012
---------------------

3. (SBU) With this amendment Wade could run for a seven-year term
in 2012. However, given Wade's age, most observers thing it
unlikely that he will run again. Some observers speculate that the
longer term is a tactic to divide opposition figures and to prevent
them from supporting one candidate against Wade or his chosen
successor in 2012. The longer term of office means that by
supporting one candidate to be elected for seven years opposition
leaders would have to be altruistic enough to potentially sacrifice
their own presidential ambitions for good.

Comment
-------

4. (SBU) Some constitutional scholars and experts argued before the
vote that this new amendment needed to be adopted by referendum
according to Article 27 of the Constitution. However, Wade and his
large parliamentary majority had a different opinion. As confirmed
by Justice Minister Niang before the Assembly, faced with an
opposition that does not recognize his legitimacy, Wade has decided
to move on with institutional changes without seeking political
consensus or consulting his opponents. Some observers have argued
that such an approach, which is contrary to local political
traditions, could undermine the very foundation of Senegal's
democratic system.
BERNICAT

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