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Defending and preserving a democratic heritage

Senegal, independent since 1960, developed its democracy under the leadership of Léopold Sédar Senghor, its first president and the founder of the Socialist Party of Senegal (PS), who brought the party into the membership of the Socialist International before his retirement from active politics in 1980. During the presidency of his successor Abdou Diouf, also a socialist, multiparty democracy flourished in Senegal and Diouf peacefully left office following the election of Abdoulaye Wade in 2000.

Now, this democratic tradition is threatened by President Wade’s insistence on standing again for re-election despite his assurances to the contrary, the decision of the Supreme Court to allow Wade’s unconstitutional candidacy whilst disqualifying a number of opposition candidates on unclear grounds and the violence used against protestors across the country. Meanwhile, Senegalese society has been suffering the consequences of a growing deficit of democratic governance, deteriorating social conditions affecting the entire population, an ageing infrastructure and a pervasive sense of lack of opportunities for the Senegalese people, which are a source of grave and serious concern to all those who know the Senegalese friendship, hospitality, tolerance, openness and democratic spirit.

In the many elections that Africa is facing this year it is crucial for the entire continent and for social democrats everywhere that there be no return to the past, no return to authoritarianism and to conflict to threaten the progress already achieved for democracy and peace in Africa.

Senegal should continue to defend and preserve its heritage as a point of reference for democrats, a position achieved over the last fifty years through the efforts of its socialist leaders, and presidential elections scheduled for 26 February must be held under free and fair conditions. The Socialist Party and Ousmane Tanor Dieng, presidential candidate and first secretary of the PS and a vice-president of the SI, have the full support of the global social democratic movement and the Socialist International calls for the respect of the democratic wishes of the Senegalese people.

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