EXCLUSIVE: Sall’s pledge plausible but presents Senegal with dilemma
DAKAR – THE unprecedented pledge by Senegalese President, Macky Sall, to reduce his term may have won him international applause but has presented the West African country and the ruling party with a conundrum as to how this will be accomplished.
After his election as the fourth president of the country in 2012, Sall disclosed he would serve for five years instead of the seven he was duly elected to rule.
“It is a definite choice. I am going to reduce my mandate,” said president Sall again recently.
It was a rare stance in a continent where leaders are so willing to extend their time in power by changing constitutions, even if this has culminated in bloodshed.
The main hurdle is how the term could be reduced, with critics saying this was impractical as well as unconstitutional. This is one of the most divisive issues among the 14 million population.
Experts said there are three possible ways to get things done- a referendum, a vote by Members of Parliament or resignation.
Sall has already maintained he would not resign, hinting it would be through a referendum his plans will be accomplished.
Thus, if all goes well for Sall, a referendum will be held later this year to consult the people.
Scheduled for May, it the recommendation of a National Commission for Institutional Reforms he established after his election.
A referendum should cost 8 billion CFA (US$13,32 million), which experts consider costly and argue should be invested in other priorities amid a declining economy and chronic poverty and unemployment.
Sall’s pledge to reduce his term has also driven a fierce opposition from the president’s ruling Alliance for the Republic (lAliance pour la république- APR) and his allies.
“Reducing the mandate is not justifiable. Apart from what it could bear in terms of symbolism, I can’t see how cutting this first term could benefit to our country and our people,” Oumar Youm, Chief of Staff of the President, said.
“The main question we have to ask is why reduce this mandate and ask for another one. Any other president has never done that except he is ill or wanted to resign. We’ve got also to look what it’s going to cost to the people and our economy,” Youm, the former government spokesperson added.
Another senior leader in the party, speaking on condition of anonymity, said resigning would be impractical as Sall might have not delivered on all his election promises by 2017 when he aims to end his reign.
A constitutional expert, Pape Demba Sy, said it would be a violation of the constitution if Parliament were to vote to reduce the mandate the electorate gave Sall in 2012, when he won more than 65 percent of the presidential vote ahead of incumbent Abdoulaye Wade.
Civil society organisations and the opposition seem oblivious of such issues in a country long considered one of Africa’s model democracies.
“The president has to respect his promise and cut his term,” Idrissa Seck, a former Prime Minister who leads the main opposition Senegalese Democratic Party, said.
Ismaila Madior Fall, a senior adviser to the president on judicial matters and a professor at Dakar University, said the Constitutional Council would have the final say on the issue.
“While the referendum is one of the best options even if it is not the single one, the president may ask for it and have his will. In the end, the Constitutional Council must say if this is consistent with the
constitution,” said Fall.
Fall cited the Constitutional Council’s assent to the 150-member National Assembly voting in favour of a seven-year term for the president.
Between 2001 and 2008, it was a five-year term.
It was a seven-year term pre-2001.
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