A months-long delay in printing new identity cards for Senegalese citizens is raising doubts over how fair the West African state’s 2012 elections will be.
The country’s main opposition party said yesterday that octogenarian President Abdoulaye Wade was attempting to keep thousands of youths from voting against him, while the government has insisted the printing delays are innocent.
“We see this as preparation for fraud on a large scale for the next elections,” Ousmane Tanor Dieng, secretary general of the Socialist Party, told Reuters yesterday.
The charge escalates simmering political tensions in the country, one of the region’s most stable but suffering from high unemployment and a low-level separatist insurgency in the southern province of Casamance.
Critics of Wade’s regime are already incensed at his use of government funds to build a huge “African Renaissance” monument, a $28 million statue completed this year of a nuclear family perched on a hill over the sprawling city of Dakar.
Senegal’s Socialist Party which ruled for 40 years before Wade came to power in 2000, says that 150 000 mostly young ID seekers have been waiting for several months to receive the documents, required for them to register to vote.
The Interior Ministry, in charge of issuing the cards as well as organising elections, has acknowledged there is a problem but has not elaborated.
“I can tell you officially that we don’t have a problem with our computerised system regarding the making of identity cards, and very soon the Senegalese will know the real reason why the system is at a standstill,” Habib Fall, director of Senegal’s ID documents was quoted as saying last month.
A government official was unavailable to comment.
Rights activists are concerned the delays in producing identity cards could cast a pall over the vote in a country that has touted the strength of its democratic institutions in a region rife with coups and flawed polls.
“The Ministry of Interior should do whatever it can not to allow any room for suspicion in the next election,” said Alioune Tine of Dakar-based rights group RADDHO.
President Wade, 86 years old, won his second mandate in 2007 with an outright majority and said last month he would seek another term in 2012.