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Dialogue: The possible and the Impossible

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The former mayor of Dakar, Khalifa Ababacar Sall, has announced that he is willing to take part in the political dialogue called by President Macky Sall. By taking such an action, he seems to distance himself from his allies in the Yewwi askan wi (Yaw) Coalition and from the new opposition political cadre, the F24. We have observed that he is the object of attacks from his friends in the opposition, but the decision of Khalifa Sall to hold the hand extended by the Head of State seems irreversible. The effusions which the public witnessed last week between President Macky Sall and Khalifa Sall, as well as the mayor of Dakar, Barthélemy Dias, on the occasion of an international meeting at the Grand Théâtre Doudou Ndiaye Coumba Rose, provide information on their new mindset.

Khalifa Sall is reinforced in this posture of openness equal to the spontaneous acceptance by the Senegalese Democratic Party (Pds) of Abdoulaye Wade, to go to the dialogue table. Certainly, Karim Wade and Khalifa Sall have everything to gain by joining this process. The opportunity may thus be given to them to discuss the conditions allowing them to recover their eligibility compromised by court convictions. Have they finally understood that on this point, they do not always have the same interests as their other political allies in the opposition? (See our columns of December 14, 2020: “Alliance with Sonko, Khalifa loser at all times” and October 25, 2021: “The turkeys and gobblers of Pastef”). Indeed, as long as they continue to be picky, they will stay on the side of the road, watching the electoral caravans pass and therefore can only resolve to vote and make people vote for others. One cannot believe that this could be the intention or the ambition of a politician!

Anyway, Karim Wade and Khalifa Sall seem to have come to realize the duplicity of their opposition friends who cannot even hide their anger at the possibility of seeing them return to the electoral competition. Thus, it is to be highly feared, for example, that the next political dialogue will not find a consensus around an amnesty project initiated by President Sall and which should, for example, enable Karim Wade and Khalifa Sall to find their lost eligibility. Idrissa Seck of the Rewmi party, supported by Khalifa Sall’s camp in the 2019 presidential election, announced his colours, refusing any political compromise with « thieves of political funds ». However, this infamy did not prevent him from forming an electoral coalition, Idy2019, with Khalifa Sall. Also, members of the F24, who claim to refuse to take part in the dialogue and who will make a point of rejecting its conclusions, which would not have suited them, will always be able to find spokespersons, in particular some civil society actors, to object to any ideas of amnesty.

We have measured the embarrassment or discomfort of civil society since the F24 indicated that it did not want to participate in the dialogue, while sections of civil society were urging President Sall to engage in an inclusive dialogue. To align themselves and look good, will they go so far as to once again make the indecent proposal to bury Ousmane Sonko’s legal files and write off all his wrongs and misdeeds against people, and against state institutions and against civil peace? In addition, it will appear rather incoherent on the part of a certain civil society, which advocates a systematic tracking of those who abuse public resources, to begin to endorse an amnesty for offenses of this kind. This means that to win an amnesty, Khalifa Sall and Karim Wade would only find Macky Sall as an ally.

Moreover, by agreeing to change strategy to resume political dialogue, the Pds and Taxawu Senegaal seem to be « liberating » themselves from a certain influence of Ousmane Sonko. The leader of the Pastef party has so far set the tone for power and has always held positions of fierce and sometimes violent opposition, even if it means falling into a certain form of nihilism. The Pds and Taxawu Senegaal have therefore returned to the conventional political practice in Senegal, which has always consisted in establishing areas for discussion and convergence between power and opposition. Presidents Senghor, Abdou Diouf and Abdoulaye Wade, despite the quarrels and inherent bickering in political life, always managed to discuss and maintain cordial relations with their opponents.

Macky Sall also strives towards this and has initiated political dialogues led by former ambassador Seydou Nourou Ba, or President Amadou Makhtar Mbow or General Mamadou Niang or even Professor Boubacar Kanté. Macky Sall regularly opens his governments to opposition figures. The dynamics of discussion with the opposition were stuck with the irruption into the scene of Ousmane Sonko and his henchmen who overturned the table and who wanted to exercise terror on everyone by insulting, threatening, bullying and physical violence.

Did the Pds and Khalifa Sall conjugate Ousmane Sonko in the past so that he no longer hinders them in their desire to get closer to power? Ousmane Sonko seems to be falling into disuse like a buoy that has become useless. Indeed, his personal fate, which constitutes the Gordian knot if not the obstacle which could block the bridges, seems to be in the process of being definitively sealed with the numerous legal proceedings hanging over his head. There remains around Ousmane Sonko only the latest arrival in the ranks of the opposition, Mrs. Aminata Touré. Does she hope to dispute the political heritage of Ousmane Sonko or his remains with Déthié Fall, Malick Gakou or such and such a political leader who is a member of the Pastef party?

What will the dialogue agree on?

The fact remains that the consensus, which will be easily found by the actors of the dialogue, will depend on measures tending to relax the rules of citizen sponsorship in national elections. The citizen sponsorship filter, introduced in 2018 after the evaluation of the 2017 elections, this drastically reduced the number of candidates for the 2019 presidential election to five.  We remember that 47 lists of candidates had been submitted for the 2017 legislative elections, causing a real hustle and bustle in the organization of the ballot. In the legislative elections of January 23, 2022, eight lists were able to compete, by dint of coalitions and groupings.

The lesson of history is that the alleviation of the conditions of sponsorship will undoubtedly allow a more diversified participation in the next Presidential election. On this point too, the opposition should not complain about its own turpitude. They fiercely refused to discuss the rules of sponsorship, and their MPs even shunned the session of April 19, 2018, when the law establishing citizen sponsorship was voted on. Weary of the war, then president of the majority parliamentary group Benno bokk yaakaar, Aymerou Gning, had endorsed an amendment to the bill to lower the sponsorship rate initially set at a minimum of 1% of the electorate, to a minimum of 0.8% for the Presidential and 0.5% for the legislative elections. There is no doubt that had it not been for this amendment, fewer than five candidates would have qualified for the 2019 presidential election.  On the other hand, we can predict that if the opposition had actively participated in parliamentary discussions, the sponsorship rate could have fallen even further. The dialogue could make it possible to further lower the qualification threshold. Only, the radical opposition tends to pursue its logic to the point of refusing President Sall’s invitation to evaluate the presidential election of 2019 or the local and legislative elections of 2022.

Today, the Pds and And Taxawu Senegaal return to the table. We do not see Idrissa Seck and his Idy2024 coalition not doing the same thing. In other words, the relaxation of sponsorship conditions should not divide the debates too much. In any case, Macky Sall’s opponents will have learned that their boycott, their refusal of dialogue or their noisy and sometimes gregarious opposition did not prevent them from complying with the law on sponsorship in order to be able to meet the conditions and thus participate in the elections. Too bad, Macky Sall will dialogue with those who want it! The fact remains that the filter for an election like the Presidential seems very necessary, when we already see the proliferation of multiple candidacies, some more eccentric than the others, towards the Presidential elections of 2024.

An opportunity to correct the anachronism of the plethora of MPs from the diaspora

The question of the participation of Senegalese abroad in the legislative elections should be on the menu of political dialogue. It is absurd to continue to reserve some 15 posts of deputies elected on majority lists for a total number of voters lower than the national electoral quotient to elect a single deputy on the national list or even that this number of voters remains lower than that of the smallest electoral district in the country (see our column of February 14, 2022: “Reducing the number of deputies from the diaspora”). The Senegalese National Assembly has 165 deputies. By way of comparison, in France, only 11 deputies are elected on a two-round majority ballot, with one deputy per constituency. The French National Assembly has a total of 577 deputies.

We warned of the prospect of an anachronism that these many deputies will not be legitimately elected, compared to their colleagues from other electoral constituencies, and that the weight of deputies from the diaspora could distort future representation in the National Assembly. We didn’t know how to say it so well and the figures easily support us. Today, it must be said that the configuration of the National Assembly would be very different with another key to the distribution of the seats of deputies elected by the diaspora or with a smaller number. The Inter-coalition of the opposition Yewwi-Wallu won 10 seats out of 15, with votes that remain lower than those achieved by Bby in each of the constituencies of West Africa (3 deputies) or Central Africa (2 deputies). Numbers speak. In Southern Africa, the Coalition Yewwi askan wi, with 905 small votes obtained out of a total of 1546 voters, won the seat of deputy in play for this constituency. The Island of Gorée represents more voters than this constituency.

The results of the legislative elections proclaimed by the Departmental Commission for the tallying of votes in the department of Western Europe – Center-North classify the Yaw Coalition as the winner. Out of 18,167 voters, including 120 invalid ballots, the Yaw Coalition managed to accumulate 10,163 votes ahead of the Bby Coalition which obtained 6,471 votes, followed by the large Wallu Senegaal Coalition with 547 votes. Six MPs were thus elected for the two constituencies in Europe, at the rate of 3 per constituency.

In the Americas and Oceania department, the Yaw Coalition won with a total of 4152 votes. It is followed by the Bby Coalition with 869 votes, followed by the Wallu Senegaal Coalition. Yaw thus gained a deputy with an electorate equivalent to that of the village of Peckesse.

The results from West Africa gave the Bby Coalition victory in this part of the continent. Out of a total of 14,157 voters, the majority coalition obtained 7,318 votes ahead of the Yaw Coalition which accumulated 5,314 votes. The Wallu Senegaal Coalition came 3rd position with 883 votes, followed by the Mpr Servants with 300 votes.

The results of the legislative elections in the department of Central Africa revealed the victory of the Coalition Bby. Out of 11,029 voters, the Bby Coalition won 8,029 votes ahead of the large Wallu Senegaal Coalition which won 2,093 votes and the Yaw Coalition with 554 votes. Out of 31,447 registered in this department of Central Africa, the number of votes cast peaked at 10,939 votes.

The question of Macky Sall’s candidacy and independence of justice

The political actors who refuse to respond to the call for dialogue justify their position with preliminary requirements, in particular an express and unequivocal renunciation by Macky Sall of a new presidential candidacy. It is a truism to say that it is an impossible requirement because the Head of State cannot be dictated to conduct, although the validity of candidacies for elections is the exclusive responsibility of the judicial institutions. We do not see the majority in power agreeing to discuss such a question. On the other hand, it will be fashionable to urge the political class to better respect republican institutions such as justice, the army, the police and public administration. Resolutions going in this direction will inevitably sound like disavowals for the attitudes and other declarations of Ousmane Sonko.

By Madiambal DIAGNE / mdiagne@lequotidien.sn

  • Translation by Ndey T. SOSSEH

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