It is to be believed that the Senegalese politician does not learn from his mistakes or those of others. In November 2011, I received a personality who had exercised high functions within the State apparatus and who was thinking of running for President in 2012. My host wanted to benefit from my support and said he would entrust me with the management of his campaign funds. I thanked him for this mark of esteem and confidence, while stressing to him that from my point of view, he was in the process of mistaking his electoral weight and his ability to win the election or even to influence it in a significant way. I advised him to support a candidate of his generation, in this case Idrissa Seck or Macky Sall. I explained that behind one of these two candidates, he would appear as a sort of number two of the one who could win or be, at the very least, kingmaker.
Indeed, in my analysis his electoral representativeness would remain a myth and no one will really know his electoral weight but that if by chance he began to weigh himself in front of the voters, the myth would inevitably fall. My interlocutor, offended by my reflection, burst out laughing and considered that it was one or the other (especially Macky Sall) who should line up behind him. And against all rationality, he told me with confidence that he is the next President of the Republic and that he has had the “listikhar” done (form of esoteric prediction based on Quranic precepts). Sceptical, I replied: « In this case, I would not then prevent you from becoming President of the Republic of Senegal. » We parted, promising to see each other again. He never came back to me again, but the person followed his logic. I could not help writing a column on January 9, 2012 entitled: “The error of counting yourself”, without mentioning this anecdote. I warned of such candidates, who were multiplying, against the ridicule to which they thus exposed themselves. It was a frankly humiliating vote for the famous candidate.
In the legislative elections of July 30, 2017, every Senegalese seemed to see themselves as a « parliamentarian ». The proliferation of candidate lists was such that some 47 lists entered the race. There too, on June 19, 2017, we published a warning column to say: “We will end up not taking them seriously anymore.” The 2017 legislative elections will prove to be the most chaotic in Senegal’s electoral history, with disorganization in the electoral campaign and outright chaos on polling day. In the end, only eight lists were able to garner at least one deputy seat. It is by taking these lessons into account that the government wanted to establish, after consultation with the political class, the citizen sponsorship system as a filter to avoid outlandish applications. The political opposition, which had nevertheless subscribed to the idea of sponsorship, rebelled against the terms deemed too restrictive and the positions were so fixed that the opposition parliamentarians boycotted the session to review the reform of the Electoral Code. establishing the sponsorship system. This system will be tested in the Presidential elections of 2019 and the Legislatives of 2022. It has made it possible to limit the number of candidatures and remains maintained, even if a reform that occurred in 2023 lightens the modalities a little.
Nevertheless, we are once again witnessing a fair of candidates, both in the camp of the majority and in that of the opposition. We said, “Has this country become a peripatetic standing on the corner so that everyone can allow themselves to ask favours? Any fanatic, eccentric or barefoot, can fabricate vague service records or academic titles and run for President. It is as if every citizen of this country would like to become President. It’s as if everyone thinks about it: from the Sunday wrestler to the business manager, from the local shopkeeper to the university professor, from the artist to the journalist. In truth, under our strict costumes or our big starched boubous, there is always a grain of madness to release by proclaiming: « I want to be President. » They’ve all gone mad. » These lines sound so current, as if they were written today.
Wouldn’t there be a risk of electing an unworthy to the presidential office?
The Benno bokk yaakaar camp is torn into a thousand pieces. The announcement of Macky Sall’s resignation seems to have released the craziest ambitions. Some are well aware of not being able to gather the necessary sponsorships or will not put the resources into campaigning. Nevertheless, they dream of themselves in the role of a presidential candidate and occupy the public scene. We are almost certain that President Sall would not give them enough respect or consideration to think of holding a handover ceremony with some of them on the morning of April 2, 2024. Only, in the name of who knows what absurd logic, he accepts them around a table or in casting sessions to designate the candidate who will carry the torch of Benno bokk yaakaar. If he wanted to confuse the issue and make his chosen candidate vulnerable, he wouldn’t do it any better! The crumbling of Benno bokk yaakaar’s pool of voters will risk reducing their respective chances of qualifying for a possible second round in the Presidential election of 2024. Will reason prevent them from scuttling each other? Nothing is less sure! Moreover, some candidacies seem to be explained by the search for a certain impunity. Predators of public resources, pursued by public clamour, have the nerve to ask to be President of the Republic, who can monetize their withdrawal in favour of a candidate who would guarantee them impunity.
We are witnessing the same situation of proliferation of candidacies at the level of the opposition. Each of the leaders sees himself as the next President of the Republic. They all seek to compete for the same electorate, the pool of dissatisfied or frustrated Macky Sall’s regime. The competition is even more open in the ranks of the opposition as the legal situations of the figurehead of the opposition, Ousmane Sonko, and his main lieutenants, seem to show that the Pastef party will be out of the race 2024 election. Thus, they strive to give pledges of fidelity and loyalty to hope, if necessary, to collect the electorate of the Pastef party. The manoeuvre also seems to be sewn with white thread in the eyes of many militants of the party of the mayor of Ziguinchor.
Whether they are all candidates from one side or the other, the votes will be split and on the evening of the counting of the votes, the candidates are left to stand with a pocket handkerchief and the differences will be estimated at a few hundred or tens of voice. The consequence will be that qualifying for a second round could turn out to be so narrow and will certainly provoke strong challenges to this election. A “tartempion”, because he has money to buy votes or has a big mouth or because he has the possibility of being supported by the most dismal and dangerous circles for peace and security in this country, find themselves in a position of being able to become President of the Republic! And if the disaster pattern is realized so that it becomes so, what would happen to this country?
The questioning should not result from exaggerated pessimism or from a prophecy of an ominous bird. Indeed, have we not already witnessed the election of mayors who are so unworthy or incompetent or of parliamentarians who are the most ignorant that there can be, both in the local elections of 2022 and in the legislative elections of the same year ? Some of these elected officials are totally unknown to their voters who, the day after the election, were trying to see what the person they had just elected looked like to lead their community or represent them in the august National Assembly. The populations were quick to reap the bad or bitter fruits of their turpitude. Will they learn from these disappointments? Maybe also that people still elect the leaders they deserve. On August 7, 2023, in these columns, we tried to draw attention to the risks of Senegal’s ungovernability in 2024, but was said that we are doing everything to install chaos. Political practice is flawed in this country with professionally unemployed people or people who do not manage to realize themselves and who find that politics remains the fastest or most convenient way to access social honour or prebends.
The stratagem is simple, all you have to do is create a political party or a citizens’ movement, as easily as you would make an omelette, to be able to sit down at a conference of leaders with an acronym and participate in investing a candidate and benefit from a backlash once the candidate wins the presidential election. We see people being appointed to public jobs without the slightest merit or the slightest professional qualification. It is enough for them simply to be able to claim to be the representative of such a political organization. Have we not seen leaders receive regular envelopes and food, because they are counted among the leaders of organizations who have supported such and such a victorious candidate? Presidents Abdou Diouf, Abdoulaye Wade and Macky Sall will not contradict us! May God watch over Senegal!
By Madiambal DIAGNE / email@example.com
- Translation by Ndey T. SOSSEH