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Monday, 11 November, 2002, 15:04 GMT
Senegal's premier party hack
Idrissa Seck behind President Abdoulaye Wade
Seck has followed Abdoulaye Wade for many years

The appointment of Idrissa Seck as prime minister offers a strong reminder, if any were needed, that it is the Senegalese Democratic Party, the PDS, which is now by far the dominant political force in the country.

The PDS needs partners and can tolerate neutrals. But it also wants to leave its mark on Senegal.


That's good news for him. We'll see if it's good news for Senegal

Unnamed source
Like his patron and close ally, President Abdoulaye Wade, Idrissa Seck is PDS to the core.

From his adolescence onwards, he has been heavily involved with the party, running Mr Wade's abortive election campaign in 1988 and playing a key role in his eventual victory 12 years later.

Senegal's last two prime ministers, Moustapha Niasse and Mame Madior Boye, looked like compromise choices, not necessarily part of the "alternance", the sweeping movement for change which was meant to come with the departure of Abdou Diouf and the arrival of Abdoulaye Wade.

Idrissa Seck has been at the heart of that movement, both in opposition and government.

Impolite

Until being named prime minister on 4 November, Mr Seck had been director of the president's office and minister without portfolio.

He has been the deputy secretary-general of the PDS, keeping order within that party and also keeping a tight rein on other parties in the PDS-led coalition, CAP 21.

While it may be impolite to talk about the succession in Senegal, whenever the question comes up as to who would take over in the event of Mr Wade's retirement or demise, Idrissa Seck's name is normally the first one put forward, but not always with great enthusiasm.

Mr Seck may have the respect and admiration of many PDS activists and he may also have a strong following in Thies, his home town, where he was elected mayor earlier this year.

But he appears to be not much loved. Critics view his rise and rise as inevitable but unappealing.

Joola Ferry
Seck promises to avoid a future tragedy

"Well that's good news for him," muttered a Senegalese friend as Mr Seck came down the presidential staircase to confirm he was in charge.

"We'll see if it's good news for Senegal".

Politicians he has crossed, talk of an arrogance and coldness.

A father of four at 43, Idrissa Seck is still a youngster when compared to many of the leading figures in Senegalese politics, but he does not waste time flattering his foes even if they are his seniors.

Moustapha Niasse, who says he did not enjoy his time as prime minister, did not have a good relationship with the then head of the president's office.

But in a subsequent interview, Mr Niasse suggested it was President Wade pulling the strings all along, while Idrissa Seck was made to look like the troublemaker.

Devout Muslim

Idrissa Seck has a strong background in business as well as politics. He studied at both the Institute of Political Studies in Paris and at Princeton in the United States.

His resume includes six years as a consultant with the international accounting firm, Price Waterhouse.

While Mr Seck, like President Wade, is a devout Muslim, he is also a moderniser with ambitious aspirations for his country.

But Idrissa Seck takes office against an unpromising background.

For many Senegalese, the changes promised by the "alternance" have delivered little.

There are serious problems in agriculture. Donors hint at a lack of direction on economic policy.

Idrissa Seck talked of the Joola shipwreck and Senegal's World Cup performance being the two major events of the year, with lessons to be learned from both.

He promises more triumph for Senegal, not more tragedy and now he will be expected to deliver.


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15 Oct 02 | Africa
02 Oct 02 | Africa
20 Mar 00 | Africa
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