The presidential election in Senegal will take place on 26 February. The contest is already proving divisive.
The most recent controversy surrounds the decision by the Constitution Court to validate President Wade’s bid to stand for re-election. He was first elected in 2000. There was then a new constitution in 2001 that limited the president to two terms. Wade made the case that the first time he was elected when there were term limits was in 2007. Therefore, he is entitled to stand again in 2012. The Court, which contains Wade appointees, upheld his candidacy.
Almost as controversially, though, it rejected the candidacy of singer, Youssou N’Dour, who had considerable popular backing.
The Court’s decisions have provoked rioting and a number of deaths. The opposition to Wade is trying to call it a Senegal spring. As things stand, though, the level of public protest does not seem to be great enough to generate regime change. Moreover, an election is very close. So, there is still the hope for many that there will be an electoral transition.
In that regard, the Court did validate the candidacy of many of Wade’s opponents, including three high-profile former prime ministers who have fallen out with the president. The problem for the opposition candidates, though, is that they are hopelessly divided. That said, Wade was unable to pass the reform that would have reduced the first-round threshold to the point where he was virtually guaranteed of being re-elected at the first ballot. In one sense, therefore, the real competition is for second place in the expectation that the opposition to Wade may yet unite at the second ballot and defeat him. This would a highly ironic outcome as it would mirror Wade’s own victory in 2000 against the then long-time leader, Abdou Diouf. However, Wade is likely to try to buy off opposition candidates in between the two ballots to ensure his re-election.