Cablegate: Senegal: Campaigning for the 2012 Is Already Underway

DE RUEHDK #1376/01 3090748
R 050748Z NOV 09




E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Senegal: Campaigning for the 2012 is Already Underway

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Although presidential elections are not slated
until February 2012, the ruling Democratic Party of Senegal (PDS)
and the opposition Benno coalition (unity in Wolof) continue to spar
against one another while internal debates rage as to who will
represent them in the election. President Abdoulaye Wade's plan to
have his son Karim succeed him is not popular among the Senegalese,
a fact that led him to announce that he will run in 2012 (at the age
of 86) for a seven-year term. This comes amid rumors of yet another
constitutional amendment in the works - this time aimed at
eliminating a second round runoff - thus increasing the chances of
Wade being reelected. End Summary.

Call for political dialogue

2. (SBU) Most of Senegal's leading opposition parties are not
represented in the National Assembly after they boycottd the 2007
legislative elections. Following those elections, the opposition
called for a politica dialogue to address the electoral law and to
reorm voter registration. Until the PDS lost big inrecnt local
elections, Wade had continually refsed this call, saying that he
would not bail out an opposition that was paying for bad political
choices. However, now a new paradigm exists whereby political
dialogue is less urgent for the opposition but more so for Wade.

Out Come the Skeletons

3. (SBU) In July, the opposition demanded that Wade include in any
agenda of dialogue a discussion of the assassination of Judge Seye
in 1993. At the time Wade was accused of being its instigator, a
rumor that gained traction when he pardoned all the perpetrators who
were jailed in the case after winning the Presidency in 2000.
Wade's response to this request left the opposition astounded. He
accused the Socialist Party, who had ruled the country from 1960 to
2000, of being behind the assassination of Police Chief Sadibou
Ndiaye in 1989 and the mysterious deaths of two young female albinos whose disappearance was never clarified. He threatened to reveal more if the opposition continued down this path. The opposition duly dropped the matter and, in a letter dated October 8, they proposed nine points of discussion for a dialogue. These included: urgent social issues, the electoral system, the Casamance crisis, public finances, political and institutional governance, liberties
and the rule of law, the business environment and employment.
President Wade accepted all nine points, even though he had
initially refused to discuss electoral and human rights issues,
arguing that the electoral system was good enough to allow the
opposition to win local elections and that Senegal's election to the
United Nation's Human Rights Council underlined his government's
positive track record. However, his acceptance came with
preconditions. He demanded that the issues of public finance be
discussed with government ministers live on camera in the presence
of religious leaders and diplomats. The opposition rejected these
preconditions and the process is now at a standstill.

Wade Unites his Satraps

4. (SBU) Wade's most recent political strategy aims to reduce
dissent in his coalition. By appointing senior dissident leader
Aminata Tall to a top position in the cabinet and negotiating with
his former Prime Minister Idrissa Seck, who is rumored to be making
a comeback to reenergize the PDS, Wade is hoping to create a grand
presidential coalition that will once again carry him to power.
However, the reality is that this strategy is fragile, as popular
former Prime Minister Macky Sall is opposed to returning to Wade's
coalition and Idrissa Seck and Karim Wade detest one another.

The President is cornered, but...

5. (SBU) President Wade is in a difficult political situation as his
old age, the rejection of his son by the Senegalese people, and the
fact that he has black widow-like eliminated all potential young
leaders who could succeed him have left him cornered. Meanwhile, as most Senegalese struggle to make ends meet and have lost hope in the face of massive unemployment, Wade and his entourage are engulfed in financial scandals. A couple of weeks after his attempt to bribe former IMF Resrep Alex Segura, Wade had CFA 52 million stolen from his apartment in Paris by a member of his entourage. A close relative of Wade told Embassy that this is not the first time the President has been a victim of such theft.

6. (SBU) However, the opposition remains paralyzed and has so far
failed to capitalize on recent PDS setbacks because no decision has
been made as to whether Benno will unite behind one candidate or
whether they will respect the charter of good governance that they
signed in May 2009 following a National Dialogue. This dialogue
envisioned a transition government to reform the political system

DAKAR 00001376 002 OF 002

from a presidential to a parliamentarian one.

Views of opposition leaders

7. (SBU) Ibrahima Sene, Deputy Leader of the Party of Independence
and Labor (PIT), told Poloff that his party will stick to the
conclusions of the National Dialogue. He supports a short
transition period of twelve to eighteen months, during which time a
new constitution and electoral law would be voted in and a
parliamentary regime introduced. For his part former Prime Minister
Moustapha Niasse, the leader of AFP who is 72, wishes to be the
candidate of Benno but faces strong opposition from the Socialist
Party. Niasse is a rich and well-known politician who financially
and politically contributed to Wade's victory in 2000. For Niasse,
this is his last chance to be President as he nears the end of his
political career. He denied to PolCouns rumors that he was solely
focused on being the candidate of Benno, adding that he supports a
serious debate on institutional reforms and the nature of Senegal's
political system. He "is open to all possibilities" as long as the
goal of Benno remains to remove Wade from power.

8. (SBU) Ousmane Tanor Dieng, the leader of the Socialist Party,
told PolCouns he was against a transition and that the Benno
candidate should be determined by primaries. It is not clear that
Benno has the required organization or even desire to go to
primaries given the large number of small party leaders who would
lose their influence in such a selection process. However, Tanor
confessed that if Wade eliminates the second round runoff, they will
have no other choice but to agree on one candidate. Talla Sylla,
the fiery young leader of Jeuf Jeul, indicated that there is a
consensus being formed around Niasse as the candidate and he
predicted that Tanor will be isolated if he persists with the idea
of holding primaries. Macky Sall, the leader of APR/Yakaar, a party
he created after Wade removed him as Chairman of the National
Assembly, told Poloff that he neither believed in changing the
current system nor in Benno having one candidate. He then boldly
declared himself ready to run against Wade adding that both Niasse
and Tanor are "outdated."

9. (SBU) COMMENT: Over the last thirty years Wade has proved to be a savvy politician who has always managed to turn around the most
difficult of situations. But his defeat in the local elections of
March 2009 is a clear indication that the voters are tired and have
grown weary of Wade's increasingly aloof administration. Now the
challenge is for Benno to unite and clearly articulate their vision
for political, economic, and institutional reforms. However, of
greater worry is what would happen in the event that Wade dies
before designating a successor. As it stands, both the PDS and
Benno are internally, deeply divided and there are real concerns
that neither group is ready to fill the gap in event of Wade's
demise, which would likely lead to a period of vicious internecine
political fighting in both camps and general instability in the
country. End Comment.


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