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Sall and Wade25 March 2012

Sall and Wade head-to-head in Senegal runoff

President Abdoulaye Wade could be defeated on Sunday by his former protege Macky Sall....

Opposition and civil society groups are rallying behind Sall, but some fear Wade, now aged 85, may not go quietly.

Contrary to the country's constitution and to promises that he himself has made, President Abdoulaye Wade, still insists on running for a third term. The veteran politican has been in power since the year 2000. His decision triggered unrest ahead of the first round of the elections in what is usually a stable West African state. Failing to secure an absolute majority, Wade now faces a runoff against Macky Sall, a former prime minister and one time protege of the president.

After Wade conceded defeat, temporarily at least, in the first round, the agitation felt by opposition and civil society subsided somewhat. Over the last few days, Senegal has been relatively calm. The minor clashes that have occurred, according to the opposition and civil society groups, were caused by Wade's supporters. Abdoul-Aziz Diopp, spokesman for the June 23 Movement that links opposition and civil society says they have called on the interior minister to disarm Wade's supporters.

"They carry truncheons and are easily identified as religiously-inspired youths loyal to Cheikh Bethio Thioune," he said.

Thioune is a leader of the powerful Mouride brotherhood, one of Senegal's four Sufi brotherhoods. Wade is also a member. Thioune has a reputation of being a firebrand. Recently, he promised that Wade would be re-elected. That has made many uneasy. Wade is relying heavily on the support of the Mouride brotherhood in his struggle to hang on to power and the June 23 Movement is worried about the impact this might have on polling day. It is urging its members to make a record of any acts of violence. A toll-free hotline is to be set up so every Senegalese citizen can report any such incidents.

A blaming game

Babacar Gaye, spokesman for Wade's Senegalese Democratic Party, sidestepped the issue by saying the opposition should not allow itself to be provoked. "There is no risk of violence if those who are afraid of truncheons, do not interfere with those who are in possession of them," he said.

President Wade's spokesman, Amadou Sall, has been heard making similar remarks. He recently told DW that civil society groups were intent on provoking violence, but did, however, concede that the state security forces had opened fire on demonstrators during the protests before the first round of the elections.

President Abdoulaye Wade is determined to remain in power. Perhaps to calm public protests, he has announced that he only intends to stay on for another three years. He said he needed the time to complete his projects. It is uncertain what will happen when he leaves. Many Senegalese fear he wants to transfer power to his son Karim, who is very unpopular and suspected of embezzling large sums of public money. As head of national electricity operator, he is blamed for last year's horrendous power cuts.

A transfer of power seems likely

Macky Sall's chances of beating Wade are therefore not bad. He has the opposition and civil society groups behind him. Even the smaller parties are counting on him. Amacodou Diouf is a member of the left-wing Party of Independence and Labour (PIT) and regional president of the International Council on Social Welfare. He hopes Macky Sall wins. If he does, he says, it will be on the basis of a broad coalition with policies drawn from a variety of political parties.

"We are confident that these policies would take the needs of the Senegalese people into account," he said. But what if Macky Sall doesn't win? Abdoul-Aziz Kebe, university professor and civil society activist, says then there will be only one solution. Abdoulaye Wade must not be allowed to stay in office. "If we have to demonstrate against him for 25 years, then we will do just that. We will not let ourselves be governed by him," he said.

The Senegalese think it unlikely that their country will descend into civil war, as happened in Ivory Coast when two protagonists simultaneously laid claim to the office of president for months. 'The Senegalese are too peaceful' is a remark that one often hears. Wade and Sall's individual responses to the outcome of the runoff are more or less predictable.

Author: Dirke Köpp / mc Editor: Daniel Pelz / rm

Source: Deutsche Welle



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