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Cablegate: Senegal: Can President Abdoulaye Wade's New Alliance Win

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R 021721Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY DAKAR
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3411
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE

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PARIS FOR AFRICA WATCHER

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINS KDEM ECON SG
SUBJECT: Senegal: Can President Abdoulaye Wade's new alliance win
next presidential elections?

1. (SBU) Summary: On November 21, President Abdoulaye Wade announced
the creation of a new alliance called "SOPI pour demain" (Change for
Tomorrow). Four days earlier, he ended a host of rumors by
declaring at a press conference that he will not call early
elections nor eliminate a second round runoff. In a separate
statement, a senior political advisor to the President underlined
the stakes when he told a gathering of party leaders, "If Wade does
not win in 2012, most of us will end up in jail." End Summary.

Ending rumors
-------------

2. (SBU) On November 17, President Wade told journalists at a press
conference that he had no intention of calling early presidential
elections, currently scheduled for February 2012. He said "this was
a dream of the opposition" arguing that his party is governing
without difficulty and that the National Assembly is functioning as
it should. Commenting about rumors that he wants to eliminate a
second runoff he said "I have the power to do it, but I do not plan
to, there are no circumstances that warrant it." (Comment: While
calling early elections is not in his interest, given the need to
rebuild his waning popularity in the wake of his party's defeat in
the March local elections, Wade may yet be tempted to eliminate the
runoff. If one reads his statements carefully he did not completely
rule the notion out. Moreover, Wade he knows that it's going to be
much harder this time around for him to win a runoff, especially
without the support of popular former Prime Minister and fundraiser
extraordinaire Macky Sall. Sall's party is loosely affiliated with
the Benno coalition of opposition parties and Sall is close to
former Prime Minister Moustapha Niasse who has made it his life's
mission to oust Wade. End Comment.)

Victory or Jail
---------------

3. (SBU) On November 20, Serigne Mbacke Ndiaye, President Wade's
Political Advisor, dramatically told the senior leadership of the
Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS) and allied parties, "if Wade is
not reelected in 2012, most of us will end up in jail." Beyond the
stalwarts who have been in the PDS since its inception, the party is
home to a large number of senior political figures from the
opposition or allied parties who only joined the PDS to have access
positions of power. The competition among these leaders has
paralyzed the party as the PDS can neither seem to renew itself by
nurturing leaders at the grassroots levels nor organize a congress
for fear of unleashing a leadership battle royal. Meanwhile,
leaders who feel marginalized often order their followers to vote
against the PDS.

A Weak Alliance
---------------

4. (SBU) According to a Mouride Deputy at the National Assembly,
"Wade wishes to solidify his ranks; that is why he created the
Alliance SOPI for Tomorrow." The Alliance brings together dozens of
minuscule political parties; in his view, the President's goal,
beyond being able to claim he has a large alliance supporting his
reelection, is to end divisions in his party. A young PDS leader at
the Assembly told Embassy that the Alliance is a new approach to end
the competition between rival factions who are vying for the
President's attention at the expense of the vitality of the party.
Both PDS leaders note that Wade is showing a more magnanimous
leadership style by inviting these figures to air their views. They
added that the Alliance will elect a unified Directorate that will
have the goal of maintaining "serenity" in the PDS. Reflecting on
the complex leadership situation within PDS, the Mouride Deputy
noted "we have to get Wade reelected and then we'll see where we go
from there."

5. (SBU) COMMENT: With the creation of the SOPI Alliance, President
Wade has launched his electoral campaign, a fact reflected by a
recently approved three-year investment plan which foresees the
construction of high-cost high visibility projects such as roads,
bridges, and national and regional airports. Programs such as the
unionizations of farmers and the creation of a Green Bank to fund
farming projects are also part of his offensive to win votes in
rural areas. Wade won in 2000 with the SOPI slogan and hopes to win
again in 2012 with almost the same slogan, SOPI for Tomorrow.
However, considering the unpopularity of his government, he will
have to go way beyond fancy rhetoric and placating his party's
leadership to win back the hearts and minds of a disillusioned
electorate. End Comment.
Bernicat

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