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Senegal’s president drops campaign vow, sticks to seven-year term

© HO, Senegalese presidential office, AFP | Handout photo distributed by the Senegalese Presidential Press Office shows Senegalese President Macky Sall preparing to make a televised speech, on February 16, 2016.

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2016-02-17

Senegal's President Macky Sall said on Tuesday he will complete a controversial seven-year mandate, ditching a campaign promise to cut the presidential term to its original five years.

Three years after visiting US President Barack Obama hailed Senegal as an example of good governance in Africa, Sall made a U-turn on his 2012 campaign promise to shorten the country’s presidential term.

In a statement in French released Tuesday, Sall maintained that, “The mandate currently under way will be completed in 2019."

Sall said he would follow the recommendation of the constitutional council, which said such a change would not be consistent with the spirit of the constitution.

During his 2012 campaign, Sall said he would reduce presidential term limits if elected. But last year, he said a referendum would be held on whether to shorten the term from seven to five years.

The referendum set for March 20 on other constitutional changes would go ahead, Sall said.

A continent for old ‘Big Men’

The Senegalese leader’s 2012 promise to shorten the presidential term was welcomed in a continent marked by leaders eliminating or extending term limits.

Sall’s statement sticking to a seven-year term came days before Uganda goes to the polls Thursday in an election widely expected to hand 71-year-old Yoweri Museveni a fifth term in office and the start of his fourth decade in power.

Museveni, who seized power in 1986, is one of Africa's longest serving leaders, after Equatorial Guinea's President Theodore Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, Angola's Jose Eduardo Dos Santos, Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe and Cameroon's Paul Biya.

When he took office in April 2012 at the age of 51, Sall was hailed as one of Africa’s top 10 youngest leaders in a continent historically dominated by “Big Men” – as Africans dub their septuagenarian and octogenarian leaders who have clung to power.

Sall’s victory over Senegalese strongman Abdoulaye Wade -- who was running for a third term after a constitutional amendment increased the five-year presidential terms to seven years – was welcomed by the international community.

Obama’s first stop on an African tour

During a visit to the West African nation a year after Sall’s election, Obama noted that he had deliberately chosen Senegal as the first stop in his three-nation sub-Saharan Africa tour.

“Many African nations have made tremendous strides in improving democratic governance and empowering citizens,” said Obama. “And that’s why I’m beginning my trip here in Dakar. Senegal is one of the most stable democracies in Africa.”

Obama went on to note that, “democracy is not just what happens on Election Day, it’s also what happens in-between elections, ” before commending Sall on “the ambitious reforms that you’re pursuing to strengthen democratic governance."

While Sall’s decision to stick with the controversial seven-year term is not expected to destabilise Senegal, analysts say it could dent his popularity ahead of the 2019 election, when he is widely expected to seek a second term.

It could also affect his popularity ahead of general elections set for 2017, a Western diplomatic source told Reuters. "The mid-term risk is that he is seen as back-peddling on his promises and (voters) could punish him in legislative elections next year," said the source.

Date created : 2016-02-17


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