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Senegal - Politics

Senegal is a presidential republic, with an elected National Assembly. The Senate was abolished in 2001, but reintroduced in 2007. The President is permitted to stand for two terms of 5 years, although President Abdoulaye Wade did one term of 7 years from 2000 to 2007, in line with constitutional provision in 2000.

Senegal’s history since independence is one of strong central government, due in part to the French Gaullist legacy and in part to the initial need for a strong central government to build the Senegalese nation-state. All of Senegal’s first three presidents used patronage politics to govern. Patron-client relationships with the Marabout leaders [religious scholars who, in some cases, may make amulets and tell fortunes] of the Sufi brotherhoods provided popular support for Léopold Senghor, Abdou Diouf, and Abdoulaye Wade. All three used enhanced executive power to practice “presidentialist” politics as heads of three successive dominant parties, the Union Progressiste Sénégalaise (UPS), the Socialist Party (PS), and the Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS).

Then the period of democratic transitions stemming from the end of the Cold War saw the rise of an awakened citizenry in the 1990s, a trend that was amplified in 2011. In 2000, Senegal’s voters ended the Senghor/Diouf legacy of socialism in hopes of spurring economic growth, and in 2012, they ended Wade’s wild “liberalism” in hopes of starting an era of good governance.

Abdoulaye Wade won the Presidential elections in 2000 after a second round run off against Diouf. Diouf quickly conceded defeat and there was a peaceful transition to the country's first ever non-PS Government. Legislative elections were called in the following year. PDS centred coalition won convincingly.

On February 25, 2007 President Wade won 56% of the vote in a field of 15 candidates, with 73% of registered voters going to the polls. Twice-postponed parliamentary elections took place on June 3, 2007, but most of the major opposition parties boycotted them, allowing the ruling PDS and its allies to capture 131 of the 150 seats in the National Assembly. Wade won open, peaceful, and highly competitive elections in 2000 and 2007 due to a strong Senegalese national desire for change after nearly 40 years of Socialist Party governments. Having come under tough scrutiny and criticism for not realizing many of his campaign promises, he has undertaken major public works projects that benefited him politically. In the March 22, 2009 local elections held nationwide, the opposition made substantial gains, including the defeat of Wade’s own son, Karim, in Dakar.

President Wade advanced a liberal agenda for Senegal, including privatizations and other market-opening measures. He has a strong interest in raising Senegal's regional and international profile. The country, nevertheless, has limited means with which to implement ambitious ideas. The liberalization of the economy is proceeding, but at a slow pace. Senegal continues to play a significant role in regional and international affairs, including its successful brokering with the African Union of the June 4, 2009 agreement among the three main parties to Mauritania’s crisis regarding a return to constitutional order in Nouakchott.

With Wade's dominance of the political scene confirmed, the political future of Idrissa Seck is uncertain. Tanor Dieng confirmed his strong base in the PS by being re-elected Secretary General of the party in October 2007. With a difficult economic context, especially in terms of oil prices, Wade is having to deal with social unrest in the public sector. This was compounded in November when a march by unions coincided with riots caused by government attempts to clear street traders from some areas of Dakar.

The election on 25 March 2012 of the President of the Republic of Senegal, Macky Sall, which took place in a calm and transparent manner, despite the fears aroused by Abdoulaye Wade's wish to represent himself, confirmed the democratic maturity of the country. Due to the limited progress of the economy and structural policies in the education, health and social services sectors, the expectations of the population, especially of young people, remain important in terms of employment and employment, Improvement of living conditions and good governance are the priorities of the authorities.

Senegal gained 7 points since 2012 in the freedom of the press index with 48 points in total. In the Freedom House's world freedom index, since 2012, Senegal has moved from “partially free” to “free” thanks to the peaceful transition of government in 2012. « Senegal maintained the positive trajectory that began when President Macky Sall took office in early 2012, with improvements including better enforcement of legal protections, fewer legal cases against the press, and decrease of harassment and attacks against journalists both while covering the news and in retaliation for their reports ».

This positive result resulted in a gain of 4 points in the freedom of press index in Senegal since 2012, before which was in decline. Senegal therefore stands amongst the Top 5 countries with the best progression Press in Senegal is considered one of the most free in the region, with Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Mali.

Senegal wrapped up a heated campaign season ahead of the legislative polls 30 July 2017. Tear gas filled the air in Dakar’s city center as police dispersed an opposition demonstration called by former president Abdoulaye Wade to denounce the organization of the upcoming election. Wade’s return to the country to lead the main opposition coalition was just one spark raising the temperature during this campaign period.

Another key political figure, the mayor of Dakar, led his "Manko Taxanu Senegal" coalition from prison. Khalifa Sall was arrested in March and charged with embezzling public funds. He demanded temporary release during the campaign period, but his request was rejected by the Supreme Court.

There were 165 seats to be filled in the National Assembly, and voters would choose from a record 47 lists, casting their ballots by party rather than for individual candidates. Many saw the vote as a sort of referendum on the current government of President Macky Sall and a preview of his potential challengers for the top job in 2019, although analysts said it was unlikely the ruling party will lose its majority in parliament.

According to the electoral commission in Senegal, the country's ruling coalition party took 125 of 165 seats in parliament. This confirmed an expected landslide for supporters of President Macky Sall. The presidential coalition Benno Bokk Yaakaar (BBY) took 49.48 percent of votes in Senegal's list system, while the coalitions of ex-president Abdoulaye Wade and Dakar Mayor Khalifa Sall trailed massively, delivering them 19 seats and seven seats respectively.

The elections did not go without problems, as voters had to wait for hours for polling stations to open. Officials complained that hundreds of voters were prevented from casting their ballots due to delays in issuing identity cards. Many voters were left off voting lists at polling stations or told they did not have the right documents to vote. There were a lot of anomaliesr. There were so many people who wanted to vote, but were unable to vote. According to Minister for Interior Affairs, Abdoulaye Daouda Diall, only 70 percent of the electorate received their voting cards. The two main opposition parties said the problems with the ballot were engineered to deny opposition victory. They accused the government of delivering the new biometric cards in a selective way to help President Macky Sall's BBY coalition.

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