Senegal – New president tries to change the constitution

Macky Sall was elected president of Senegal in March 2012. His victory was noteworthy, given the hold his main opponent, Abdoulaye Wade, had over the system. However, since his election President Sall has moved quite slowly. For example, the new prime minister, Abdoul Mbaye, was appointed in early April, but he only delivered his general policy declaration to parliament earlier this month.

Anyway, President Sall now seems to be moving more quickly. At the end of last month he announced that he would present two constitutional amendments, one abolishing the post of Vice President and the other abolishing the Senate.

The abolition of the vice-presidency seemed to cause very little comment. The position was introduced towards the end of the President’s Wade’s second term and was interpreted as an attempt by the incumbent president to find a way of appointing his son as vice president and, therefore, creating a dynasty. In fact, even though the reform was passed by the compliant parliament, President Wade never appointed a vice president, so unpopular was his son and the reform in general.

The creation (or re-creation) of the Senate was also the result of a constitutional amendment by President Wade. It was reintroduced in 2007. In the only Senate election since then, Wade’s supporters won 34 of the 35 elected seats. The other 65 senators were appointed by the former president! So, it is fair to say that the Senate had a pro-Wade majority.

Perhaps for this reason, President Sall announced its abolition. The constitutional amendment to do so was passed by the National Assembly but towards the end of last week, the Senate refused to vote itself out of existence. So, this reform is currently stalled.

President Sall now has two options. He can submit the reform to abolish the Senate to a referendum, or he can convene a Congress of the two houses of parliament. At such a Congress, a three-fifths majority is required for the passage of the amendment. President Sall may just have the votes to secure such a majority, but it is by no means guaranteed.

In addition, President Sall has just announced the creation of a special commission for the ‘consolidation of the country’s institutions’. The commission is charged with coming up with ideas for further institutional reform.

Senegal has had an almost non-stop process of constitutional reform since 2001. It seems as if this process is about to continue.

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