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Senegal - Ruling Coalition To Retain Parliamentary Power After Opposition Split


Thursday, August 31, 2017 8:05 AM / BMI

BMI View: The breakdown of an opposition coalition just two months before legislative elections bodes well for the ruling alliance of President Macky Sall holding onto power, which would allow him to continue with his reform programme in the lead-up to the 2019 presidential elections. Although protests in Dakar suggest rising dissatisfaction in the capital, we do not believe this will be sufficient to prevent him from winning a second term in 2019.

The fracturing of an opposition coalition in Senegal bodes well for President Macky Sall's governing Benno Bokk Yakaar (BBY) alliance holding onto its parliamentary majority at legislative elections on July 31. A BBY victory would be positive for Sall's ability to carry on implementing his reform agenda, which will continue driving economic growth, boosting his chances of re-election at presidential elections in 2019.

Although there have been signs Sall's popularity may be declining, these have largely been confined to the capital Dakar and, unless this dissatisfaction spreads, we see it as unlikely at this stage that the candidate of even a united opposition would unseat Sall in 2019.

Wade's Return To Political Fray Works In Sall's Favour Now And In 2019

The failure of the opposition coalition Manko Taxawu Sénégal to agree on a leader led to its collapse as the parties filed their list of candidates on the May 31 deadline and this plays into the hands of the President Sall's BBY coalition in the July 31 election.

The opposition coalition, which consisted of the Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS) of former president Abdoulaye Wade, the Rewmi party of former Prime Minister Idrissa Seck and a faction of the Socialist Party (PS) led by Dakar Mayor Khalifa Sall, failed to agree on whether Wade or Sall should top the list of candidates at the election.

In the event, the PDS candidate list was submitted with Wade at its helm while Khalifa Sall and Seck maintained their cooperation, with Sall, who is currently in jail on corruption charges, heading their list.

It is believed Wade's decision to return to the political fray was a major cause of the breakdown as he insisted on being the coalition leader. The 91-year old Wade was beaten by President Sall in the 2012 presidential elections and has largely remained away from frontline politics since then. His return appears to be prompted by a desire to gain sufficient influence to have a corruption conviction against his son Karim overturned.

Karim was released from prison in 2016 following a presidential pardon, but remains liable to pay a large fine and ineligible to run for political office because of the conviction. In the absence of support from the PDS, it is highly unlikely the Khalifa Sall/Idrissa Seck coalition will win enough seats to win a majority, not least because the division will split the opposition vote.

In this context, we see it as likely BBY will hold on to its majority in parliament and this bodes well for President Sall's ability to continue implementing reforms associated with his Plan Sénégal Émergent plan, which has already led to improvements in the business environment and higher economic growth since it was instituted in 2014.

Indeed, we are forecasting real GDP growth of over 7.0% in 2017 and 2018 and this will provide a solid platform from which President Sall can win re-election in 2019.

Opposition Inroads In Dakar Likely, But Not Enough To Threaten Sall Re-Election In 2019

We believe the Khalifa Sall and Idrissa Seck coalition is likely to take a large portion of the 20 parliamentary seats available in Dakar and this may lead the BBY's majority to be smaller than it is currently (it holds 119 out of 150 seats). Khalifa is a popular mayor and his arrest on what many see as trumped-up, politically motivated charges will rally support (see 'Mayor's Arrest Will Influence Legislative Elections ', March 27).

Dakar has seen several protests against his arrest with civic organisation Y'en a Marre, a group of rappers who were influential in bringing President Sall to power in 2012, joining the demonstrations against President Sall's apparent tactic to neutralise his opponent.

However we do not see this as being sufficient to deprive BBY of its majority, given only 3% of seats are in the capital. We also do not believe these signs of rising opposition to President Sall pose a realistic threat to his chances of being re-elected in 2019, at this stage. Sall remains popular outside the capital and unless this dissatisfaction spreads, we believe his rural popularity will carry him to victory even if his star continues to fade in Dakar.

Although the capital will be a focal point of investment and economic growth over the next two years, there are a range of infrastructure projects across the country, meaning economic development will be well spread geographically.

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