Senegal – Constitutional reform abandoned

Events in Senegal have moved very quickly.

On 16 June the government approved a constitutional law that would have introduced two main changes:

1.) The introduction of a presidential/vice-presidential ticket at the presidential election, which is scheduled for next year. A previous reform introduced the office of vice-president, but it was a presidential appointment and, to date, no-one has been appointed.

2.) A rule whereby the top ticket would be elected at the first ballot if it won 25% of the votes cast.

The text of the proposed reform is available in French here.

The reform provoked an immediate reaction. It was criticised for two reasons. Firstly, there is the suspicion that President Wade was going to run on a ticket with his son, Karim Wade. Bearing in mind that President Wade has just celebrated his 85th birthday and the presidential term is seven years, there is the distinct possibility that his son would have automatically become president during the next presidential term. Secondly, even though Wade is fairly unpopular, the opposition would most likely have been very divided at the first ballot, even if it would also most likely have united against Wade at the second. Therefore, the low threshold was designed to maximise Wade’s chances of being re-elected.

The bill was debated on Wednesday and, given President Wade’s supporters have an overwhelming majority there, it was strongly supported. Yesterday, the bill was debated again. During the debate, there were riots in Dakar and reports of pressure religious leaders. Sensing the approach of a ‘Senegal spring’, at first the government proposed an amendment that got rid of the controversial 25% clause. Later in the day, Jeune Afrique is reporting, the government withdrew the bill altogether.

President Wade’s political tactics almost never surprise me. However, the decision to introduce such a reform surely takes the biscuit.

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