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Thursday, 20 April, 2000, 17:18 GMT 18:18 UK
Senegal president to seek new powers
Wade at election rally
Can President Wade satisfy the expectations raised?
By Klara Gaia Chastan in Senegal

The President of Senegal, Abdoulaye Wade, has said he expects a referendum on the country's constitution to be held in November.

He said legislative elections could follow next February.

Correspondents say a new constitution would allow Mr Wade to break the political impasse created when he became president last month.

As the presidential elections were not accompanied by National Assembly elections, Mr Wade's new coalition government found itself in a minority in parliament, with fewer than 40 of the 140 seats.

Under the present constitution the president must have the agreement of at least two-thirds of the members of the National Assembly in order to dissolve the body.

Proposed changes

The referendum is expected to recommend altering the rules allowing the head of state to dissolve the national assembly, reducing the number of deputies and suspending the relatively inactive senate.


Woman at polling station
The elections led to a political impasse

It would also make the head of state, rather than the prime minister, accountable to parliament.

Until fresh elections can be held, President Wade and his Prime Minister, Mustapha Niasse, will have little room to manoevre.

Casamance

Even so, two issues are likely to top their agenda during the period of cohabitation between the president and parliament: the Casamance separatist rebellion and the economic crisis.

The election results showed that the Casamance region voted strongly against the former President Diouf, who had allowed the rebellion to continue intermittently since 1982, at the cost of hundreds of lives, while President Wade has promised to try to end it.

Mr Wade said recently that he intended to meet some the radical commanders of the rebels, who have been blocking progress in the peace talks.

The economy

Revitalising the economy will be an even bigger challenge.
Man listens to radio
Any news of jobs?

Mr Niasse has spoken of carrying out a national financial and economic audit, apparently to help the government decide where to focus its efforts.

Analysts say that Senegal should be able to secure support from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, which see democratic change as an element of good government.

It should also be able to count on help from France, the former colonial power.

The French co-operation minister, Charles Josselin, who attended President Wade's inauguration, suggested that France would reassess its aid to Senegal which has been declining for some years now.

Young want change

But President Wade will find it hard to satisfy the very high expectations that his slogan of change raised among the young unemployed: they voted for him in large numbers and want results fast.


Abdou Diouf
Ex-President Diouf's supporters in disarray

However Mr Wade faces an oppositition that, for all its strength in the national assembly, is currently in deep disarray.

Djibo Ka, the opposition presidential candidate who at the last minute urged his supporters to back President Diouf in the second round of the elections, faces unrest within his own Union for Democratic Renewal party.

Opposition divisions

The party spokesman, Aziz Sow, said that many party members had voted for Mr Wade and that Mr Djibo had abandoned his own party.

It is still unclear how Mr Djibo's switch is likely to affect his political ambitions.

Will he emerge, as he hopes, as the rallying point for an opposition coalition?

Or will he face competition from the current leader of the once-mighty Socialist Party, Tanor Dieng?

These issues will do much to determine what President Wade can achieve while he is limited to a minority of seats in parliament.

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See also:

21 Mar 00 | Africa
UN praises Senegal elections
20 Mar 00 | Africa
Senegal votes for change
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