Senegal opposition fails to agree on Wade challenger


A coalition of Senegalese opposition parties failed to agree on a single candidate to challenge President Abdoulaye Wade in next year’s presidential election, increasing Wade’s chances of staying in power.

Senegal will be voting in a tense election in February. The opposition has accused octogenarian Wade of seeking to hand over power to his son Karim after the election. Father and son deny such plans.

More than 30 parties, mostly on the left of the political spectrum under the umbrella organisation Bennoo Siggil Senegaal, failed to agree on a single candidate at a meeting on Thursday evening, Reuters reports.

Moustapha Niasse, leader of the AFP party, who was the kingmaker in the 2000 election that brought Wade to power, won votes from 19 parties, pushing Ousmane Tanor Dieng, of the former ruling Socialist Party, into second place.

Dieng however rejected the results and said he would also run.
“In Bennoo Siggil Senegaal, we never vote … Decisions have always been taken by consensus. Since there was no consensus on this question, I consider myself as a candidate for Bennoo Siggil Senegaal,” Dieng said.

Political analysts say the failure by the coalition, which has been trying find a candidate for the past two years, increases the chances of Wade or another candidate from his liberal side of the political spectrum of winning the election.

Wade and other liberals represent the forces that were in political opposition during long years left-leaning Social Party rule after independence.

Samir Gadio, emerging markets strategist at Standard Bank in London, said Wade was unlikely to win outright in the first round of the Feb 2012 presidential election given his declining popularity.
“We should expect a run-off vote which will prolong market uncertainty and fuel concerns about Senegal’s short-term outlook,” Gadio said.
“Accordingly, the electoral cycle has the potential to weigh negatively on Senegal’s $500 million Eurobond (currently yielding about 7 percent), although the country’s democratic credentials have consolidated over the past decades,” he said.

Senegalese political analyst Mame Less Camara said the coalition’s failure will increase the chances of what many are calling a liberal trio – Wade, Macky Sall and Idrissa Seck.

Sall and Seck are former prime ministers in Wade’s government but both left over policy differences.
“Bennoo’s implosion will lead to a splitting of opposition votes which could enable the incumbent president reach the second round of the election,” said political analyst Babacar Justin Ndiaye.

Senegal was heading towards the most unpredictable election in its history, he added.