Senegal chooses new parliament | Africa | DW | 29.06.2012
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Senegal chooses new parliament

The people of Senegal voted in parliamentary elections on Sunday. Ute Bocande, from Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Dakar, is convinced the poll will boost Senegalese parliamentary democracy.

DW: The Senegalese last went to the polls in March when they elected a new president, Macky Sall. What changes has he brought about in the meantime?

Ute Bokande: The mood in the population has changed fundamentally. The last few years under his predecessor Abdoulaye Wade were dominated by his authoritarian style of leadership. That made people nervous, anxious and fearful. Such worries have now disappeared and the people are more confident. The old problems are, of course, still there. The economic situation is difficult and parts of the country have been struck by famine because recent harvests were poor. There is not very much a new president can do within such a short space of time.

Ute Bocandé, represents the Konrad Adenauer Foundatdion in Dakar, Senegal

Ute Bocandé from the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, a German think tank active in more than 120 countries

But Macky Sall has big plans for his country. He wants to get the economy moving, improve the education system while cutting government expenditure at the same time. Will these parliamentary elections strengthen his hand?

Certainly. The old parliament consisted of members of the former governing party of Abdoulaye Wade. All it did was provide rounds of applause for the president, which is unacceptable in any democracy. Things can only get better and more democratic. At the moment, a huge shift in support from the former governing party to Macky Sall's party is taking place. I suspect that his coalition will secure between 60 and 70 percent of the vote. Parliament will become more lively and colorful.

Does that also apply to representation of women? At the moment only one in five are women.

Yes, in May a law was passed enforcing gender parity. That means that on every list of candidates 50 percent must be men, 50 percent women. That will automatically lead to more women being elected to parliament.

The Presidential election campaign was often bad-tempered leading to clashes in which some people were injured or even lost their lives. What's the mood like this time?

The parliamentary elections are not arousing as much passion. I fear that the turnout won't be very high. Unfortunately the huge significance of parliament has yet to percolate through into public consciousness. People are still focused on the importance of a strong president rather than on individual participation in an election.

Macky Sall speaks at a celebratory news conference in the capital Dakar in March, 2012.

Macky Sall was elected President of Senegal in March 2012 after a bruising campaign

If Senegal continues to make progress in its return to stability and democracy, what will this mean for the country's role in the region? Neighboring countries Mali and Guinea-Bissau are still tense in the wake of coups in March and April respectively.

Until a few years ago, Senegal fulfilled the role of a democratic mediator, for example, in conflicts in Congo, Chad or Ivory Coast. Unfortunately, that changed and the country lost credibility under Wade. But Senegal remains a peaceful, tranquil country. And I believe a new government will help to strengthen it in this regard so that it will once again become a beacon for democracy and diplomacy in the region.

Author: Peter Hille / mc
Editor: Asumpta Lattus

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