On March 25, 2012, Macky Sall won the second round of Senegal’s presidential election, easily defeating incumbent president Abdoulaye Wade. The elections were relatively peaceful, but the campaign season was not. Wade graciously accepted his defeat, phoning Sall to congratulate him several hours after polls closed. French President Nicolas Sarkozy called this gesture “proof of [President Wade’s] attachment to democracy.” Empirically, this appraisal is too optimistic, for Wade’s peaceful turnover followed on months of violence and repression. Debates about the constitutionality of Wade’s candidacy undergirded this violence, which included at least ten deaths, dozens of arrests, and many injuries.
Wade’s pursuit of a third term underscores the regime’s enduring competitive authoritarianism, a regime type in which democratic rules exist, but “incumbents violate those rules so often and to such an extent…that the regime fails to meet conventional minimum standards for democracy.” This essay argues that competitive authoritarianism endured even after Wade’s Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS) won the 2000 presidential elections, ending 40 years of Socialist Party rule. Analysts tended to ignore the Wade regime’s repeated use of institutions to create an uneven playing field that disadvantaged opponents, and instead focused on the presidential turnover in order to classify Senegal as a democracy. Such a classification is incorrect. Since 2000, Wade pursued a repertoire of non-democratic strategies to retain power. They did not ensure his success in the 2012 election, but they reinforced undemocratic practices that could prolong competitive authoritarianism under Macky Sall.
In addition, Macky Sall claims that Wade left the government coffers empty and spent the last few weeks in search of 200 billion CFA francs to make good on basic campaign promises, including the lowering of food prices and the resolution of a prolonged strike in the education sector that risks holding all high school students back for a year. France and the EU have stepped up to assist Senegal in the last few days, but at the time of the National Assembly meeting, the government was still searching for financing, and Biteye [a congressman] wisely asked whether it was prudent to plan legislative elections for any time this summer if the state was out of money.
That’s from Catherine Kelly’s new blog. Catherine is a PhD candidate in my program, in the middle of a year of fieldwork in Senegal. She studies political parties in Africa. I’m looking forward to following the blog!
Things that make me sad:
- Massachusetts weather;
- Injured puppies;
- And the fact that I can’t make it to New York next weekend for the screening of a new documentary on Lebanese and Chinese in Ghana and Senegal.
If you’re in New York you can see the film on Saturday, January 29 at 2:00 PM at 19 University Place, Room 102. Sara Goldblatt made the film. She’s a masters student at NYU. Here’s the awesome trailer: