Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Senegal's national assembly president dismissed

By HAMADOU TIDIANE SY, Nation Correspondent

DAKAR, Tuesday - It’s now official and definite: Makcy Sall, who was until this Sunday the president of the Senegalese national assembly, has been dismissed from his seat.

Though very controversial, the decision was voted by a majority of MPs. It puts an end to a year-long saga during which Macky Sall has been at odds with his former mentor, President Abdoulaye Wade himself.

This marks the final step of a long battle which has opposed the president and a formerly loyal and dedicated “protégé”.

The decision also opens a new front against the ruling party, as the sacked leader has decided to remain active in the political battle field, away from his original party, the ruling Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS).

In response to the sacking decided by his “colleagues” at the national assembly, Mr Sall has immediately announced to reporters “his resignation” from the ruling PDS.

By so doing, he also loses his parliamentary seat and his membership at the municipal council of his hometown of Fatick (in the centre of the country), a city for which he was also the Mayor.

Before coming to that conclusion, the former parliamentarian has fought with all his energy to keep his seat, refusing to resign from the presidency of the lower house, though the country’s president requested him to.

Macky Sall’s exit has finally required the vote last month of a constitutional amendment, cutting off the duration of his term from 5 years to 1 year, and a change in the rules and procedures of the national assembly to have him sacked.

With all his “positions and privileges’” gotten from his former party now lost, Macky Sall is to find his own way in the Senegalese political jungle, currently dominated by President Wade, highly suspected to be grooming his son Karim Wade for a possible succession.

The decision has caused some angry reactions within and outside the ruling party.

Most people, including some in the ruling party, criticized the president for the way he is manipulating the constitution, and the country’s laws and institutions to fit his own and almost personal agenda.

“The arguments put forward to dismiss Makcy Sall are not valid, they are erroneous and do not honour the Senegalese democracy”, Mbaye NDiaye, an MP from the majority said demanding that the House be returned its due “dignity” and the constitution its sacredness”.

Mr. Ndiaye has been one of the MPs who have remained loyal to the ousted parliamentary leader during his ordeal.

He has already paid for his commitment and loyalty: following a presidential decree signed by Mr. Wade Mr. Ndiaye has himself lost his seat as the Mayor of Parcelles Assainies, a vast and populous area in the outskirts of the capital controlled by the ruling party.

More than the party which he founded in 1974 and which came to power in 2000 backed by a large coalition, it is the president himself now aged 82, who is indeed in the country’s driving seat with all members and leaders of all other institutions obliged to pay allegiance to him.

More and more, some local commentators ironically refer to him as the “King” and to the Senegalese Republic as a “kingdom”, to highlight his ruling style and the many discrepancies, shortcomings and failures noted in the Senegalese democratic system since he came to power.

The same remains valid within the ruling party where all members are tied to strictly follow orders from the presidency or lose their position in the government and the party.

“Generally speaking the PDS does not actually exist. It’s one man who leads the party as his own personal property”, explains Abdou Latif Coulibaly, a senior Senegalese journalist and writer, always very critical of the president’s leadership and governance style.

Some other decisions in the recent history of the nation or within the ruling party tend however to prove this journalist right.

Before Macky Sall, many other leaders who challenged Wade’s authority or decisions have been excluded or at least marginalized from the party’s decision making bodies, the best illustration being the former Prime Minister Idrissa Seck who has known exactly the same fate as Mr Sall.

Seck, who is now at the head of his own political movement, was sacked in 2004 and then imprisoned. Before he fell out with the president he was his closest ally, but was suspected at some point to be working towards a “succession” strategy for his own benefit.

Mr Seck was then replaced at the Prime Minister’s office by Macky Sall, who became a key player in the party before his latest fall down.
Mr Sall, who quickly rose to prominence, directed Mr Wade’s campaign for his second term in 2007.

But in October of the same year, he was accused of trying to “humiliate” the son of the president Karim Wade at the national assembly in a bid to destroy the latter’s political career and pave the way for himself.

The accusations emerged when the national assembly decided to hold a session dedicated to hearing the son of the president Karim Wade on the management of public funds he was handling at the head of a government agency.

Ever since, Macky Sall, has been seen as an “enemy” by the Wade’s loyalists.

“The attempt to hold a hearing session has only been a catalyst incident“, Babacar Gaye the spokesman of the ruling party explained adding that Macky Sall has been sanctioned mostly for planning to build his “own network” of supporters and to defend his own personal interests within the party.

When it was decided to organize the hearing session back in October last year, it was President Abdoulaye Wade himself who angrily said “no” in an attempt to protect his son.

Ever since the suspicions against his privileged son as a possible heir, has taken more amplitude in the party and the nation, causing some discomfort.

For many the mere attempt to organize a “succession”, rather than letting the Senegalese chose their next leader will be a serious blow to the country’s image as a “democratic” model.

For those more interested in party politics, one serious question has started to emerge: will Wade and his party survive the purges the party is facing now?

The question is prompted by a comparison with the formerly ruling Socialist Party which, before its 2000 historic defeat after 40 years of rule, was experiencing major splits and internal divisions – which finally led to its loss.

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