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Friday, 27 April, 2001, 18:21 GMT 19:21 UK
Three main parties in Senegal's elections
Abdoulaye Wade
Abdoulaye Wade is hoping to win a clear majority
By Chris Simpson in Senegal

Over 50 parties are registered in Senegal, but Sunday's parliamentary election looks set to be a contest between the three main political blocs.

President Abdoulaye Wade is hoping to win a clear majority in the new national assembly.

His Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS) has led a coalition of parties campaigning under the banner of 'Sopi', meaning change, reviving a slogan used by Mr Wade in his long years in opposition.

PDS Secretary-General Idrissa Seck, often seen as the president's right-hand man, has fronted the campaign. He believes Sopi will win at least 72 of the 120 seats being contested.

Mr Wade's supporters say he must have the legislature behind him if he is to push through the policies which Senegal needs.

Socialist party claims

Despite occasional clashes between rival supporters, the election campaign has largely been peaceful

The Socialist Party (PS) disputes this , arguing that it has made a full recovery after its defeat in the presidential elections last year, and can retain its current parliamentary majority.

Ex-President Abdou Diouf now lives in France and PS Secretary-General Ousmane Tanor Dieng is now the public face of the party.

The PS has been hit by a series of splits and defections in recent years, but Socialist activists say the party still has a huge support base across the country.

After long years in office, the PS has had to re-market itself as a party of opposition.

Its campaign has focused on the alleged failures and shortcomings of Mr Wade's first year in office, highlighting the grievances of peasant farmers and trade unionists.

Alliance of Progressive Forces

The Alliance of Progressive Forces (AFP) has joined the PS in warning against the dangers of a PDS-Sopi majority, arguing that the legislature should keep the executive in check.

The AFP is led by Moustapha Niasse, who served as Mr Wade's first prime minister until his sacking in March.

Mr Niasse, 61, had previously occupied a series of posts in the socialist governments of Léopold Senghor and Abdou Diouf, but broke with the PS to form the AFP in June 1999.

Abdou Diouf
The Socialist Party's ex-President, Abdou Diouf, now lives in France
He contested the presidential elections in February 2000, winning 17 per cent of the vote in the first round. Mr Niasse subsequently backed Wade in the second round, helping ensure Mr Diouf's defeat.

Mr Niasse's reward was to be made prime minister, but the partnership did not work out, and Mr Niasse's campaign has been strongly hostile towards the president and his allies.

The AFP is less than two years old and has no seats in the current parliament. But Mr Niasse is a strong figurehead - a highly experienced politician with substantial private means.

Smaller parties

While most of the 120 seats are likely to be split between these three blocs, the smaller parties have also campaigned vigorously.

The Party for the African Renaissance (Parena) has lobbied strongly for the rights of Senegalese women.

The Rally of Senegalese Ecologists (REC) has called for an end to deforestation and the preservation of Senegal's rivers.

The Union of Democratic Renewal (URD) is one of several left-wing parties defending Senegal's socialist heritage and warning against the dangers of privatisation and IMF-imposed structural adjustment.

The National Election Observatory (ONEL) has promised free and fair elections. All of the parties have enjoyed access to the state media, which has provided saturation coverage.

Despite occasional clashes between rival supporters, the election campaign has been largely peaceful, with leaders stressing that Senegal has established a reputation as a showcase democracy.

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See also:

24 Apr 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Senegal
07 Apr 01 | Africa
Senegal election campaign begins
16 Jan 01 | Africa
Senegal heads for early elections
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