Senegal: Democracy 3.0

Please welcome Aliou Goloko to the ONE Blog. Aliou is a Senegalese journalist who his passionate about Africa and football. He offers his take on the Senegal elections. Image courtesy of SeneNews:

After several months of uncertainty and tension, the Senegalese people have again expressed themselves through the ballot box. The election of their fourth president, Macky Sall, stands as another fine example of African democracy.

Wade, victim of his supporters

Sall defeated incumbent president Abdoulaye Wade, who ran an unsuccessful campaign for a third term after nearly twelve years in office. Many ordinary citizens, along with the opposition, denounced his campaign. The outgoing president’s supporters, most notably his family, only made matters worse by behaving poorly in the public spotlight. Wade’s stubborn defense of his controversial son, politiican Karim Wade, cast a dark cloud over his candidacy. Other members of his entourage have been arrested for financial misconduct and physical assault, but have yet to stand any punishment. To these stains we must add the stress of increasing demand for staple foods and resulting price hikes, the skyrocketing unemployment rate, and the luxurious lifestyle enjoyed by state offcials.

The N’diguël: End of a tradition?

Senegal’s population breaks down into 94 percent Muslim, 5 percent Christian, and 1 percent animist. During election season, politicians tend to seek the public approval of religious leaders, who issue voting instructions called the n’diguël.

Previous presidents, including Wade, used this opportunity to consolidate their power. This election proves that today’s voters, especially youth, don’t’ see the n’diguël as a mandate. Even with religious sanctioning, Wade still lost the election — which means that religious leaders’ hold on the voting booth is loosening.

Macky’s plebiscite

After a political career serving Wade, Sall stands as the future leader of the Senegalese state. A real plebiscite, Sall was supported by the 12 other candidates and claimed nearly 66 percent of the vote — a clear victory that prompted his opponent to congratulate him even before the official declaration of results.

His political career was impressive even before this feat. His resume includes stints as a minister, member of Parliament, prime minister, founder of the Alliance for the Republic party, and president of Parliament. During his tenure as head of Parliament, he summoned Karim Wade to court to testify about supposed misuse of ANOCI funds (National Agency for the organization of the Islamic Conference). For that bold move, he fell out of favor with Wade — but into favor with the Senegalese people.

What awaits President Macky…

Sall will have to tackle many challenges head-on to satisfy an electorate that is increasingly demanding and aware of its rights and duties.

Sall will have a lot on his plate to fulfill the many commitments he made during the campaign. He has spoken about the restoring republican values, limiting the lifestyle of state officials, championing good governance, ending impunity, rehabilitating the education system, reducing cost of living, and improving access to health care. No small feat.

After a tense election season, Sall will have much to do to reestablish a peaceful and stable political climate. Frictions will undoubtedly rise up in the redistribution of responsibilities. As Sall manages the transition to his new administration, he will have to continually evealuate the political climate and its many diverse characters.

Democracy 3.0

The second generation of the Senegalese political elite brough Wade to power; the third generation has ended his career with the assistance of new media, especially social networks.

Like Web 3.0, new citizenship in Senegal — Democracy 3.0 — is more interactive, more participatory and more informative. New media have played an important role in achieving democratic change in Senegal, allowing all citizens to participate in the political process and advocate for the change they want to see as Senegal negotiates the third democratic shift in its history.

The number three appears time and time again in this election cycle. Sall’s upcoming presidency, the third since independence, derailed Wade’s third term. The new president enjoyed support from a strong campaign made up of three components: youth movements (Y’en a marre), broader citizen movements, and coalitions of political parties. These voters are passionate about their so-called third generation rights: healthy food, decent housing, fair education, health care and employment.

Undoubtedly, this is the birth of Senegal’s “Third Republic,” one that values justice, labor and solidarity as advocated by Macky Sall. A newly invigorated democratic era that distances itself from electoral fraud, this participatory democracy is imbued with autonomy and freedom.

Who wrongly said that democracy was not meant for Africa? Africans are eager for it, and here it is: Democracy 3.0


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