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Cablegate: Senegal: Looming Electoral Crisis

DE RUEHDK #0032 0081249
R 081249Z JAN 10




E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Senegal: Looming Electoral Crisis

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: In early December, the Ministry of Interior hosted
a series of meetings with members of the ruling Senegalese
Democratic Party (PDS) and opposition parties to discuss revisions
to the Electoral Code. Two days after the talks began the
opposition Benno coalition walked out, outraged by what they said
was the ruling party's unilateral push to make undemocratic
amendments to the Code. In a subsequent meeting with the
Ambassador, the Benno leaders decried the uncooperative attitude of
the ruling party arguing that President Abdoulaye Wade's sole
objective is to use whatever means at his disposal to rig the 2012
presidential elections for a favorable outcome. They claimed that
they were prepared to oppose the organization of any elections,
violently if necessary. End Summary.

2. (SBU) In their meeting with Ambassador Bernicat, ten leaders of
the opposition made the case that President Wade is seeking to
distort the democratic process. In his presentation for the group,
Serigne Baye Thiam, the spokesperson for the Socialist Party, said
that they had come to the meeting with the government to discuss 60
points that had been drawn up for debate but that the first motion
they had made was to have the discussions opened up to more people
from civil society and NGOs. Thiam recalled that in the 1990s and
early 2000s talks to discuss electoral reform had always been
chaired by someone with an independent profile. The fact that this
time these talks were being lead by the Director General of
Elections at the Ministry of Interior showed that the government was
bent on controlling the process and that they would not negotiate in
good faith. He underlined this by highlighting earlier
announcements by Minister of Interior Becaye Diop, who said that
polling hours should be extended to 22:00 and that journalists
should be forbidden to announce any results in the media before the
closing of the polls. (Note: These early announcements via cell
phones and independent commercial and community radios contribute to
transparency, making it almost impossible for any one party to claim
a false victory or forge documents in the formal process of
aggregating votes at national level. End Note) According to Thiam
this was a unilateral statement, and that the issue had never even
come up during the talks.

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3. (SBU) Thiam then characterized as outrageous a Senegalese
Democratic Party proposal that the official tally of votes in each
voting station be considered valid without the signature of the
various elections officials present. He also criticized the
arrogance of the ruling party when both Becaye Diop and Abdoulaye
Babou, a senior PDS leader at the National Assembly, went on TV to
say that if push comes to shove the PDS could act unilaterally to
change whatever they wanted in electoral legislation.

End of Consensus

4. (SBU) With the PDS now opting to use its political strength, as
opposed to dialogue, to impose its agenda, the opposition views this
development as the end of what has generally been a consensual
process on electoral issues. Additionally, opposition members
characterized as very troubling Wade's move to force the head of the
Autonomous National Electoral Committee (CENA) to resign.
Meanwhile, the opposition has identified another potential area of
fraud in the lack of reliable birth records and the issuance of
birth certificates. A senior opposition leader claimed to EmbOffs
that this time the GOS is planning to use judges to issue birth
certificates and administrative measures have already been taken to
notify local courts to hold public rulings where judges can issue
ordinances allowing people without a birth certificate to be issued
one on the basis of oral testimonies.


5. (SBU) There seems to be a flurry of electoral issues, which make
some suspect that Wade might organize early elections in 2010 or
early in 2011 rather than waiting until 2012. Initiating major
infrastructure projects and creating labor-intensive programs in the
suburbs to employ young people seem to reinforce this notion. In
answer to a question about their disunity and whether they need to
agree on a unified candidate before it is too late, the leader of
the Socialist Party, Ousmane Tanor Dieng, forcefully claimed that
they would not be driven by Wade's agenda. Former Prime Minister
Macky Sall added that they have an action plan to inform the
Senegalese people about what is going in their country, but the
reality remains that the President does drive Senegal's political
agenda and he has every legal tool at his disposal, however
unethical, to do what he wishes to ensure the most favorable
conditions for a reelection victory.

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