The Party System and Conditions of Candidacy
Following a short experience of a one-party system, from 1966 to 1974, Senegal restored political pluralism, but limited the number of authorized political parties to three, each representing a specific political current. This innovation was codified by the Law 76-01 of March 19, 1976, amending the Constitution. After this change, the Constitution was amended again to authorize a fourth political party (Law 78-60 of December 28, 1978). A multi-party system without any restrictions was finally instituted by the Law 81-17 of May 6 1981, early in Abdou Diouf’s presidency (Senegal’s second President). This piece of legislation amended the third article of the Constitution which limited the number of political parties, lifting all restrictions on number. With the introduction of an unrestricted multi-party system, every Senegalese citizen is free to create his or her own political party.
The current 2001 Constitution, augmented by other statutes and regulations, regulate the conditions for the creation, organization and functioning of political parties in Senegal. Political parties are created on the basis of the provisions of the Code of Civil and Commercial Obligations (COCC), especially its articles 812 and 814. In Senegal, political parties are legally categorized as associations and are thus subject to all regulations pertaining to this category. Therefore, creating a political party is not difficult; as for forming an association, the procedures required are simply a notification of intent to create and a registration of the party. The declaration is formally made to the relevant administrative authority (the Prefect), by providing two sets of the party’s by-laws, the minutes of the general assembly during which the party was created, and the list of the officers responsible for the management of the party.
Following the delivery of these documents at the Prefect’s office, the latter verifies compliance with legal procedures prior to issuing a certificate acknowledging receipt of the declaration.
Based on Article 4 of the January 22, 2001 Constitution and Article 2 of the Law 81-17 of May 6, 1981, it is strictly prohibited for a party to be created based on a particular race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sect, language, or geographic area. Every party must necessarily and explicitly indicate in its by-laws its compliance with the prohibition against representing one particular community or region. However, in reality, it has been noted that some parties in fact display a particular identity preference (mainly religious) both in their discourse and political choices.
In fact, a number of current political parties in Senegal are led by religious figures: the Islamic religious leader Modou Kara MBacké is leader of PVD (The Party of Truth for development), Serigne Khadim Thioune, son of the Islamic leader Cheikh Bethio Thioune, is the leader of the MPS/FAXAS (Patriotic Movement of Senegal), and the Muslim imam, Mbaye Niang, is leader of the Movement for the Reform and Social Development of Senegal (MRDS).
During elections, political parties and legally constituted coalitions of political parties can compete by formally declaring their candidates. Independent candidates can also compete in national elections. In any case, candidates who wish to compete under the banner of a political party, a coalition of political parties or as an independent, must comply with the provisions of the law LO 116 (for presidential elections) and LO 169 (for legislative elections) of the Electoral Code of Senegal.
For regional, municipal and rural elections, any political party or coalition of political parties wishing to take part in the elections must first of all announce its candidates. This announcement of candidates must be done in conformity with the provisions of the Electoral Code, especially the provisions LO 239 (for regional elections), LO 274 (for municipal elections), and LO 303 (for rural elections). However, the Electoral Code has no provisions allowing independent candidates to compete in local elections.
Candidates who wish to compete in Senegalese presidential elections must pay a deposit of 65 million CFA, (approximately 130,000 US dollars). This deposit is refunded to candidates who receive a number of votes equal or superior to 5%. The deposit for legislative elections is 20 million CFA (approximately 40,000 US dollars); the deposit is refunded to any list that succeeds in having at least one of its candidates elected.
Since the establishment of the unrestricted multi-party system in 1981, there has been a proliferation of political parties, to the point that Senegal has today more than 175 registered political parties. However, it is to be noted that political parties in Senegal in fact enjoy varying degrees of electoral importance and longevity. The various elections organized since 2000 show that the political landscape is actually dominated by five political parties: The Socialist Party, Rewmi, The Alliance for the Republic (APR), The Democratic Party of Senegal (PDS), The Alliance of the Forces of Progress (AFP). Rewmi and APR (President Macky Sall’s party), despite their significant electoral weight, are rather young parties. At the same time, the much older Party for Independence and Labor, and the Democratic League, despite their insignificant electoral weight, remain very influential in the political system. The Senegalese political landscape is characterized by the game of major coalitions especially in electoral cycles, this is true for the ruling presidential majority as well as for the opposition. As a result, political parties which would normally have no luck in getting a candidate elected, often manage to have their candidates elected thanks to coalitions. This fact may be misleading when attempting to assess in real terms the relative political competitiveness and the electoral weight of the various parties. The Senegalese political system is characterized by endless mergers, coalitions, and dissidence.
Useful links and documentary resources
- Links to the websites of the most representative political parties
- Parti Socialistes du Sénégal (PS) : http://www.ps-senegal.com/
- Parti Démocratique Sénégalaise (PDS) : http://www.pds.sn/
- La Ligue démocratique/Mouvement pour le parti du travail (LD/MPT) : http://www.ldmpt.sn/
- And Jef/ Parti Africain pour la Démocratie et le Socialisme (AJ/PADS) : http://andjefpads.centerblog.net/