Politics of Senegal

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Politics in Senegal takes place within the framework of a semi-presidential, democratic republic. The President of Senegal is the head of state and the Prime Minister of Senegal the head of government. Executive power in Senegal is concentrated in the president's hands.[1]

While legislative power is technically vested in both the government and the parliament, the parliament rarely introduces legislation or votes down legislation proposed by the government.[2] Similarly, although the Judiciary is theoretically independent of the executive and the legislature, the executive branch seems to exert undue control over the judiciary.[1]

Senegal is one of the few African states that has never experienced a coup d'état or exceptionally harsh authoritarianism. Léopold Senghor, the first president after independence, resigned in 1981, handing over the office of president to his Prime Minister, Abdou Diouf. The present president, Macky Sall, was elected in competitive democratic elections in March 2012.[1]

Senegal has a reputation for transparency in government operations. The level of economic corruption that has damaged the development of the economies in other parts of the world is very low. Today Senegal has a democratic political culture, being part of one of the most successful democratic transitions in Africa.


Political system

The President is elected by universal adult suffrage to a 5-year term. The unicameral National Assembly has 150 members, who are elected separately from the President. The Socialist Party dominated the National Assembly until April 2001, when in free and fair legislative elections, President Wade's coalition won a majority (90 of 150 seats).

The Cour Suprême (Highest Appeals Court, equivalent to the U.S. Supreme Court) and the Constitutional Council, the justices of which are named by the President, are the nation's highest tribunals. Senegal is divided into 11 administrative regions, each headed by a governor appointed by and responsible to the President. The law on decentralization, which came into effect in January 1998, distributed significant central government authority to regional assemblies.

Political culture

Senegal's principal political party was for 40 years the Socialist Party (PS). Its domination of political life came to an end in March 2000, when Abdoulaye Wade, the leader of the Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS) and leader of the opposition for more than 25 years, won the presidency. Under the terms of the 2001 constitution, future presidents will serve for 5 years and be limited to two terms. Wade was the last President to be elected to a 7-year term.

President Wade has advanced a liberal agenda for Senegal, including privatizations and other market-opening measures. He has a strong interest in raising Senegal's regional and international profile. The country, nevertheless, has limited means with which to implement ambitious ideas. The liberalization of the economy is proceeding, but at a slow pace. Senegal continues to play a significant role in regional and international organizations. President Wade has made excellent relations with the United States a high priority.

There are presently some 72 political parties, most of which are marginal and little more than platforms for their leaders. The principal political parties, however, constitute a true multiparty, democratic political culture, and they have contributed to one of the most successful democratic transitions in Africa, even among all developing countries. A flourishing independent media, largely free from official or informal control, also contributes to the democratic politics of Senegal.

However, the image of Wade as a constitutional democrat has been tarnished by events at the end of his mandate. When faced with internal dissent within his own party his main opponent Idrissa Seck was arrested, accused of treason. Wade refused to go along with holding presidential elections in 2006, arguing that there were economic reasons for wanting to hold the presidential and parliamentary elections simultaneously in 2007.[3]

Initially Wade's government had the support of a broad section of groups opposed to the socialist government, but gradually individual parties have disassociated themselves from the government and joined the opposition efforts led by PS. In 2011, Wade attempted to amend the Constitution to allow him to run for another term in office. Large protests by opponents erupted, throughout the Summer of 2011, as well as large counter-protests by government supporters. The crisis has deepened political rifts within the country, which has long been a rare example of stability in the region.[3]

After Senegal's Constitutional Court approved Wade's bid to run for a third presidential term, street protests broke out. The top court's decision was controversial as the Senegalese constitutional amendment, which places a two-term limit on the presidential office, was established about a year after Wade came into power in 2000.[4]

Executive branch

Main office holders
Office Name Party Since
President Macky Sall Alliance for the Republic 2 April 2012
Prime Minister Mohamed Dionne Independent 6 July 2014

The president is elected by popular vote for a five-year term. The prime minister is appointed by the president. The 2001 constitution introduced a two-term limit for the president. Abdoulaye Wade, after initially saying he was bound by the two term limit, now argues that his first term was under the old constitution, and he is eligible to stand again.[5]

The Council of Ministers appointed by the prime minister in consultation with the president

Legislative branch

The National Assembly (Assemblée Nationale) has 150 members, elected for a five-year term, by parallel voting, with multi-seat rather than single-seat constituencies for the plurality part of the system.

Political parties and elections

For other political parties, see List of political parties in Senegal. An overview on elections and election results is included in Elections in Senegal.
 Summary of the 25 February 2007 Senegalese presidential election results
Candidate Party Coalition Votes %
Abdoulaye Wade Senegalese Democratic Party Sopi 2007 1,914,403 55.90
Idrissa Seck Rewmi Party And Liggey Sénégal 510,922 14.92
Ousmane Tanor Dieng Socialist Party of Senegal 464,287 13.56
Moustapha Niasse Alliance of Progress Forces Alternance 2007 203,129 5.93
Robert Sagna Takku Defaraat Sénégal 88,446 2.58
Abdoulaye Bathily Democratic League/Movement for the Labour Party Jubbanti Sénégal 75,797 2.21
Landing Savané And-Jëf/African Party for Democracy and Socialism 70,780 2.07
Talla Sylla Alliance for Progress and Justice/Jëf-Jël 18,022 0.53
Cheikh Bamba Dièye Front for Socialism and Democracy/Benno Jubël 17,233 0.50
Mamadou Lamine Diallo Tekki Taaru Sénégal 16,570 0.48
Mama Adama Guèye Sellal 13,700 0.40
Doudou Ndoye Union for Progress and Renewal 9,918 0.29
Alioune Mbaye Independent 9,016 0.26
Louis Jacques Senghor Movement for the Liberation of the Senegalese People 8,212 0.24
Modou Dia Independent 4,491 0.13
Total[6] (turnout: 70.5[7]) 3,424,926 100.0
 Summary of the 3 June 2007 National Assembly of Senegal election results
Parties and coalitions Votes % Seats +/–
Coalition for Change 2007 (Sopi 2007) 1,190,609 69.21 131
Coalition Up to Rebuild Senegal (Takku Defaraat Sénégal) 86,621 5.04 3
Coalition Unite in Building Senegal (And Defaar Sénégal) 84,998 4.94 3
Coalition Call of Duty (Waar Wi) 74,919 4.35 3
Rally for the People (Rassemblement pour le peuple) 73,083 4.25 2
Front for Socialism and Democracy/Benno Jubël (Front pour le socialisme et la démocratie) 37,427 2.18 1
Alliance for Progress and Justice/Jëf-Jël (Alliance pour le progrès et la justice) 33,297 1.94 1
Convergence for Renewal and Citizenship (Convergence pour le renouveau et la citoyenneté) 30,658 1.78 1
Authentic Socialist Party (Parti socialiste authentique) 26,320 1.53 1
National Patriotic Union/Tekki (Union nationale patriotique) 22,271 1.29 1
Reform Movement for Social Development (Mouvement de la réforme pour le développement social) 20,041 1.16 1
Rally of the Ecologists of Senegal (Rassemblement des écologistes du Sénégal – Les Verts) 17,267 1.00 1
Social Democratic Party/Jant Bi (Parti social-démocrate) 15,968 0.93 1
Senegalese Patriotic Rally/Jammi Rewmi (Rassemblement patriotique sénégalais) 6,847 0.40 0
Total (turnout 34.75%) 1,720,326 100.0 150[6]

Judicial branch

The nation's highest courts that deal with business issues are the constitutional council, and the court of justice, members of which are named by the president.

Administrative divisions

Senegal is subdivided into 11 regions (régions, singular – région):

Dakar, Diourbel, Fatick, Kaolack, Kolda, Louga, Matam, Saint-Louis, Tambacounda, Thiès, Ziguinchor. Local administrators are all appointed by and responsible to the President.

International relations

Further information: Foreign relations of Senegal

Senegal joined with the Gambia to form the nominal confederation of Senegambia in 1982. However, the envisaged integration of the two countries was never carried out, and the union was dissolved in 1989. Despite peace talks, a separatist group in the southern Casamance region has sporadically clashed with government forces since 1982. Senegal has a long history of participating in international peacekeeping.


Senegal has acted as a mediator between Sudan and Chad over the crisis in Darfur.[8]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 Freedom House. "Freedom in the World – Senegal". Retrieved 12 November 2011.
  2. Thomas and Sissokho (2005.) "Liaison legislature: the role of the National Assembly in Senegal" Journal of Modern African Studies 43 (1). p. 106
  3. 1 2 "Succession debate threatens security in Senegal". Institute for Security Studies. Retrieved 18 August 2011.
  4. Reuters in Dakar (28 January 2012). "Senegal (News),Africa (News),World news". The Guardian. London.
  5. Senegalese leader in row over 2012 re-election bid Reuters
  6. 1 2 "Le texte intégral de la décision du Conseil constitutionnel", Agence de Presse Sénégalaise (Seneweb.com), March 11, 2007 (French).
  7. Diadie Ba, "Senegal's Wade re-elected, warns opposition", Reuters (Mail & Guardian Online), 2 March 2007.
  8. "Senegal country profile". BBC. 9 July 2011. Retrieved 18 August 2011.
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