1 February 2012


Paul Melly

Associate Fellow, Africa Programme


  • Senegal's stability is being tested by President Abdoulaye Wade's intent to run for a third term in presidential elections on 26 February 2012. A Wade victory would prompt unrest in Dakar, especially if the elections are perceived to be fraudulent. Post-election instability may force change or simply peter away, depending on reactions in other regions and cities.
  • Abdoulaye Wade is a president of international repute, but his bid for another term has badly divided Senegalese and has created growing concern among neighbours and allies. Senegal has been regarded as a political model in West Africa and a reference for democratic constitutional order; an anchor state in a rough neighbourhood. This election could undermine this record. 
  • At the heart of the issue is the president's singular personality and ruling style. Wade is 85 and he continues to see himself as the one man who can provide the leadership that Senegal needs. There is also a more basic truth about the Wade era: the concentration of decision-making power in the presidency, and particularly in the hands of Wade.
  • A patchy development and economic record have generated popular discontent over long-standing socio-economic problems. The fragmentation of political alliances, the spread of corruption and Mr Wade's constitutional tinkering, would all make for a heated electoral process. But there is no doubt that fundamental constitutional questions are at the heart of the current situation, and to some extent draw all the other issues together.