Senegal’s Sall Seeks Parliament Control for Graft Fight

Senegal’s President Macky Sall is seeking to win a parliamentary majority in a July 1 election to push ahead with plans to combat corruption and cut government spending.

Sall, 51, leads the Benno Bokk Yakaar coalition that’s running for the National Assembly’s 150 seats. The main challengers are the Parti Democratique Senegalaise, headed by ex-President Abdoulaye Wade, and the Bokk Gis Gis coalition led by the current head of the parliament’s upper house, Pape Diop.

The president needs control of parliament to help implement changes, such as audits of government departments, that he’s made since defeating 86-year-old Wade in a March presidential election, said Abdou Fall, a Senegal analyst at the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, South Africa.

“Sall’s real political moves will start after the legislative elections,” Fall said in a June 26 interview. “He will see the audits through to the end, he will revive the economy and he will replace the heads of all national companies. The change of power will be complete.”

Since taking office, Sall has shut 59 state institutions, such as the National Agency for New Ports of Senegal and the National Agency for the High Authority of the Desert, begun audits of government programs and created a special court to prosecute fraud and financial crimes.

Eurobond Yield

Sall has pledged to cut government spending by banning first-class travel and curbing mobile-phone costs for government officials. He is also selling one of two presidential jets and he may reduce the presidential term to five years from seven, reversing a policy enacted by Wade in 2008.

Senegal’s economy, which earns much of its foreign currency from exports of fish and peanuts, is forecast to expand 3.9 percent this year compared with 2.6 percent in 2011, according to the International Monetary Fund. That’s lower than the 5.3 percent expansion forecast for the eight-country West African monetary union for this year, which includes Senegal, Ivory Coast and Mali.

Sall’s coalition will probably win an “overwhelming majority,” Samir Gadio, an analyst at Standard Bank Group Ltd. in London, said in an e-mail today.

‘Positive News’

“This would in turn ensure a favorable environment in which the authorities will be able to push through key pieces of legislation and maintain the momentum for reform,” Gadio said. “Such an outcome would be positive news for the holders of the Senegales Eurobond.”

Since the presidential election, the yield on Senegal’s $500 million Eurobond due 2021 has declined 86 basis points, or 0.86 percentage point, to 7.181 percent at 9:24 a.m. in Dakar today.

Some of Wade’s former ministers have been questioned by state prosecutors over allegations they used their positions for personal gain. Ousmane Ngom, Wade’s interior minister, was arrested briefly on June 22 for failing to turn up for questioning after being summoned by state prosecutors.

Mineral Deposits Ltd. of Australia mines zircon in Senegal, while Vancouver-based Oromin Explorations Ltd. is developing a gold project and Teranga Gold Corp. produces the metal from the Sabodala mine. France Telecom SA has a 42 percent stake in telecommunications company Sonatel, the largest company on the regional stock market in Abidjan, Ivory Coast by market capitalization.

Political Partnerships

Even with 66 percent voter support in the presidential election, Sall would be forced to seek partnerships to meet his pledges if he doesn’t win a majority in Senegal’s parliament, Alpha Diedhiou, a senior Africa analyst at Bath, U.K.-based risk advisory company Maplecroft, said in an e-mailed response to questions on June 27.

“He will most likely need to build a pro-reform political alliance in order to carry on enacting his promised public policy overhaul,” he said. “Sall and his team may have already identified political groups, especially among the new and smaller parties, which are amenable to accepting a role in government.”

Under the Senegalese political system, taken from former colonial rulers France, if the president’s party does not win a majority in the lower house, Sall will have to choose a prime minister and government acceptable to the other members of the house. The majority of those members will come from the PDS and Bokk Gis Gis.

“If this happens, this will be a completely new thing for Senegal,” said the ISS’s Fall. “There could be a complete deadlock.”

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