Senegal's Sall seeks to bolster rule in polls

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 30, 2012 8:02 PM
Senegal's Sall seeks to bolster rule in polls

By Diadie Ba

DAKAR (Reuters) - Party allies of Senegal's new President Macky Sall are tipped to win control of parliament in polls on Sunday, three months after Sall triumphed over veteran ex-leader Abdoulaye Wade in an election hailed as a success for African democracy.

Victory for Sall's own Alliance for the Republic (APR) party and the Benno Bokk Yakaar coalition backing him would help Sall, 50, push on with reforms seeking to boost employment and cut the cost of living for the poor, notably through food subsidies.

"I think the pro-Macky Sall coalition should win as he took the presidential election with 65 percent and there has not been enough time since then for him to be caught up by people's expectations," local analyst Djiby Diakhate said.

But Wade's Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS) said patience was wearing thin with Sall - a former protégé of the 86-year-old Wade -- in a country where average income is around $3 a day and people endure frequent power cuts, poor roads and weak social services.

"There is already disappointment because people thought things would change quickly," said senior PDS member Amadou Sall, who is no relation to the president.

"His grace period lasted no longer than a rose," he said.

No reliable figures exist for joblessness, but formal employment remains a rarity in much of the country, particularly among youths. Aside from phosphate exports, much of the economy is based on farming and fishing.

March's presidential election was dominated by a controversy over whether Wade, who ruled since 2000, had the right to seek a third term. There were violent protests ahead of the first round but the run-off was peaceful and Wade conceded defeat quickly.

While Sall's victory sparked euphoric scenes in the capital Dakar in March, there has been little enthusiasm for the legislative elections and turnout is expected to be modest. For the first time, a number of local Islamic leaders are standing.

Samir Gadio, analyst at London-based Standard Bank, said a Sall victory would give a small boost for Senegal's Eurobond, currently yielding around seven percent, but said nerves over the global economy would limit any gains.

The task ahead for Sall remains immense. Public finances are on shaky ground with a budget deficit equal to 8 percent of gross domestic product, Sall revealed this week, and breakdowns in electricity supplies continue to hold the economy back.

Yet Sall said he expects to halve the deficit to four percent by 2014 at the latest, partly by reining in what he called the excessive government apparatus created by Wade.

Investigations into Wade-era corruption have already led to police summons for a number of officials, including former interior minister Ousmane Ngom.

(Writing by Mark John; Editing by Roger Atwood)