Senegal: Toward Legislative Elections July 1

Senegal, as in 2007, has staggered its elections: presidential elections in late winter/early spring, legislative elections in summer. In March, Senegalese elected a new president, Macky Sall; on July 1, they will head to the polls again to elect the 150-member National Assembly. A big difference between 2012 and 2007 is that last time, the opposition – having lost to former President Abdoulaye Wade, who won re-election in the first round that year – boycotted the legislative elections. Wade’s coalition (led by his  Parti Democratique Senegalais or PDS) took 131 seats. In this election, campaigning will be more vigorous, pitting Sall’s coalition against the “new opposition” – i.e., the PDS.

Campaigning has begun. One of the main issues so far has been the new administration’s investigations into alleged corruption under Wade. The probe includes audits of senior officials and major projects during the 2000-2012 period. It represents an attempt to fulfill campaign promises, promote transparency, and draw investors, but critics from the PDS side have charged that it is one-sided and politically motivated.

Campaigning for the legislative elections began yesterday. AFP writes that Sall’s coalition (which appears to have held together so far) is expected to win this “first popularity test,” but also discusses how the PDS is framing the corruption issue:

PDS officials have accused the new administration of using the audits to “intimidate and harrass” members of the party ahead of the elections.

They say it is a smokescreen to hide the new administration’s inability to meet its campaign pledges.

Condemning the seizures, Wade himself said: “If our vehicles are not returned, there will be no elections.”

Former justice minister El Hadji Amadou Sall said: “Macky Sall should himself be audited.”

“We have seen in his inheritance declaration that the assets are worth around $6m. In 2000, he was a tenant. He now has buildings even in the United States,” said the ex-minister.

The PDS has been particularly incensed by the new administration’s confiscation of dozens of vehicles (French). Wade’s side says the vehicles belong to the PDS, but the administration says purchases Wade made while in office belong to the state (more here).

One notable aspect of the PDS’ position now is how much Wade himself has remained involved. Wade decided to stay in Senegal following his defeat, unlike his two predecessors, who both retired to France. Symbolically, it is a powerful move, but Wade wants to be more than just a symbol. He is not running for any seat in these elections, but he is still very active in politics – one article (French) discusses the “war council” he has assembled to fight Sall.

The corruption probe seems like it will be a long process – one that will last beyond the legislative elections. But the election results will give some idea of how Senegalese are feeling about the new administration, how they feel about the corruption investigations, and how much the PDS has been able to bounce back from Wade’s loss. The larger political struggle over the corruption investigations, particularly as it partly coincides with election season, shows just how difficult it is – in any country – for a regime to investigate its predecessor.

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