Those who doubted the near-86 year-old Senegalese leader, Abdoulaye Wade’s capacity of campaigning will have to eat their words.
Campaigning in the Wade camp has been fired up since February 5. And in only a week, “Gorgui” had already visited some fifteen sites around the country, when some of his opponents had barely left the capital, Dakar.
However, the incumbent president, going on his seventh presidential campaign, is having a hard time on the campaign trail.
“It cannot be compared to 2007. Back then, people attended his meetings spontaneously. It’s no longer the case,” reminisces a local journalist. In Kébémer, Wade’s birth village, the octogenerian basically had to knock on doors to get people to hear him speak.
Aside from the state budget, Wade disposes of a paramount campaign budget. In 2007 he spent around 4 billion CFA Francs (about US$8.1m).
This year, according to reports, that sum is expected to exceed 30 billion CFA Francs. A campaign budget that Amadou Sall, Wade’s spokesperson, deems “extravagant” whilst stopping short of revealing the real amount.
An independent economist estimates that the incumbent president’s campaign budget will hit 15 billion CFA francs. As for his opponents, they can only sit and watch.
“We do what we have to do one day at a time. (Our success) is dependent on the personal investment by each and every one of us,” says a campaign volunteer for one of the main opposition parties. Candidates with budgets reaching 5 billion CFA francs are rare.
A squeak-less machine?
Besides that, Wade relies on a very-experienced campaign team. Some have been with him since the “tough years” when he was in the opposition.
There, we find people like Amadou Sall, in charge of communications, Samuel Sarr, Wade’s life-long financier, and Pape Diop, the President of the Senate, who holds the keys to the treasure chest. Karim Wade, his son, is in charge of logistics.
However, the “machine” seems more squeaky as it was in 2007. One of the managers of the Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS) says that the party has been “profoundly demobilised”, and desertions are numerous.
The most recent deserter being Abdou Fall, former director of the presidential cabinet.
The deserters blame their departure on their progressive ousting, in favour of the president’s son, Karim. “Whoever opposes him is ostracised,” one of them claims.
Another says that “Wade’s entourage is now made up of young sharks controlled by Karim, a couple of old hawks, and the trans-humans.” Among the latter are Djibo Leyti Kâ and Mamadou Diop, who joined Wade in 2000, as a result of an alternating power tradition within the party.
Today, Leyti Kâ and Diop are the campaign masterminds within the opposition coalition, FAL 2012 (Forces alliées 2012). “Local managers who fought when we were in the opposition no longer fight for Karim or any of the other cunning partisans,” says one of the president’s former allies.
In fact, the opposition is so strong that on February 11, Wade had to cancel the implementation of FAL 2012’s district delegations. Several of the local barons had threatened to leave the campaign.
More examples of the internal tensions that persist in the presidential camp are, for instance the events of February 12, when fights broke out in Kédougou, where the campaign trail had made a stopover. Some wanted to receive Wade honorably, others wanted to boycott him.
Aminata Tall, who left her position as head of women liberalists in April 2011, says that “the atmosphere within the party is one of reaching the end of the reign.” Much like with the Socialist Party in 2000, when Wade won the elections. When it comes to Prime Minister Ndéné Ndiaye it is incomparable.
“The people who left the Socialist Party at the time were party heavy weights, whereas the people leaving the PDS today are withered leaves, without any political clout.
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