Paul Lachine

Africa’s Imperiled Democracy

The future of one of Africa’s oldest democracies is at stake in Senegal’s presidential election on February 26. The incumbent, Abdoulaye Wade, formerly a leading advocate for democracy, has, at almost 90 years old, become its gravedigger.

NEW YORK – The future of one of Africa’s oldest democracies is at stake in Senegal’s presidential election on February 26. The incumbent, Abdoulaye Wade, formerly a leading advocate for democracy, has, at almost 90 years old, become its gravedigger.

Wade has been tinkering with Senegal’s constitution in dangerous ways ever since he was inaugurated in 2000. Of the 15 changes Wade made to the constitution, ten weakened democracy; the others were erratic, if not bizarre. For example, Wade at one point abolished Senegal’s senate, only to reinstate it after realizing that it could be put to use as a place to reward political allies. Likewise, he reduced the length of presidential terms from seven years to five, but later restored it to seven.

In February 2007, Wade was re-elected as Senegal’s president amid opposition charges that the election had not been free and fair. As a result, the opposition boycotted the June, 2007, parliamentary elections. That was a mistake, because the boycott gave Wade absolute control over the legislature, as well as the ability to appoint Constitutional Court judges unimpeded.

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