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Cablegate: Senegal-President Wade Announces He Will Run for a Third

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TAGS: PGOV PREL PINS PINR KDEM SG
SUBJECT: Senegal-President Wade announces he will run for a third
term

1. (SBU) Summary: In a September 18, 2009 interview he gave to VOA's
French to Africa service, Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade
announced that he was going to run for a third term in office.
Immediately, opposition leaders derided the decision saying that
this was just a ploy by the President to sideline the succession
question until he could better position his son, Karim Wade to
replace him. End Summary.

Yes he Can
----------

2. (SBU) Under Senegal's former constitution there were no term
limits for the office of president. Wade was elected in 2000 under
that constitution. In 2001, Senegal adopted a new constitution
which introduced a limit of two consecutive terms for the presidency
and reduced the length of the mandate to five years. However, this
was not applied retroactively to Wade's first term because he was
elected before the new constitution came into force. For that
reason, his first term was seven years and the two consecutive term
limit commenced with his second term, which began in 2007. However,
in a subsequent amendment the Senegalese National Assembly, at the
behest of President Wade, extended the term of office back to seven
years. This change was not applied retroactively to Wade's current
term, which will be for five years and end in 2012. So, barring
another change, the next president will be elected for seven years.

More Changes Afoot?
-------------------

3. (SBU) Another announcement that has the opposition up in arms is
the as yet unanswered rumor that the National Assembly is preparing
another constitutional amendment to change the election of president
from two rounds to a first-past-the-post system. President Wade has
so far demurred and is gauging public sentiment as he knows full
well that, under the current system, it is unlikely that either he
or his chosen heir could win the necessary 50 percent in order to
avert the need for a second round during the presidential elections
slated for 2012. However, should the constitution be amended, there
is a fair chance that a Democratic Party of Senegal (PDS) candidate
could win in 2012, especially since the opposition remains
hopelessly divided, despite claims to the contrary. On Sunday,
September 27, PDS Deputy Amadou Gallo Ndiaye went as far as to tell
a gathering of local party leaders in the northern city of Louga
that the matter had already been taken care of, as the Assembly had
already drafted a law to change the constitution. "It is official
the Presidential election will be done in one round," he stated
boldly. In response, Ousmane Tanor Dieng, the leader of the
Socialist Party, said, "This would be the straw that breaks the
camel's back." He characterized the proposition as another example
of the backsliding of Senegal's democracy, accusing Wade of trying
to rig his re-election.


Why the Announcement?
---------------------
4. (SBU) Ever since he won re-election in 2007, President Wade has
had to face continual calls to reveal who his chosen successor will
be. At the same time, his PDS has continued its inexorable
disintegration as leading party members such as former Prime
Ministers Macky Sall and Idrissa Seck were either ousted or left in
disgust at his autocratic and increasingly erratic leadership style.
That being said Wade remains the only constant in the maelstrom of
Machiavellian political intrigue that surrounds him. As long as he
remains in full control of the State's vast patronage apparatus he
will be able to keep his satraps in line until such a time he either
revamps the PDS or announces a successor.

Comment
-------

5. (SBU) Rumors of changes to the electoral code in what is an
obvious ploy that favors the PDS are disconcerting. What's worse is
that, with full control of the National Assembly and a carefully
massaged message that changes to the electoral code make fiscal
sense, means that Wade's latest maneuvers might actually be enough
to persuade the Senegalese electorate that the change is warranted.
Meanwhile, the President's announcement that he will run for a third
term has opinion makers divided between whether or not he is doing
it to calm the political scene down or if he is actually serious.
In any event, President Wade continues to exhibit a stubborn
resistance to relaxing his seeming stranglehold on the political
process. End Comment.

SMITH

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