Senegal's Sall readies new govt

2012-03-27 15:08

Dakar - Senegal's president-elect Macky Sall prepared Tuesday to take power after defeating veteran leader Abdoulaye Wade at the polls, leading to a smooth handover hailed as a democratic example for Africa.

The 50-year-old former prime minister will assume office after his inauguration on April 03, leaving him a few days to form a new government which is expected to include members of the opposition who lent him crucial support during the election.

He will then preside over independence celebrations on April 04 in his first role as president.

"The president's men - Macky Sall's dream team" headlined L'Observateur newspaper, speculating on who would be part of the new regime.

Sall's political party is the Republican Alliance but he was elected as part of a broad coalition called Benno Bokk Yakkar (meaning United with the same Hope in the Wolof language).

It was not clear when the 85-year-old Wade would vacate his offices and the presidential palace after 12 years in power.

"No definitive date has been set for the transfer of services [from Wade to Sall]. We should know tonight," a source among Sall's entourage told AFP.

The state Senegalese Press Agency said Wade "has decided to leave the palace on Wednesday" but the presidency could not confirm this.

The west African nation had received kudos from the continent and the world for a peaceful handover of power following tumultuous elections in which Wade had sought to rule into his 90s, seeking a third term which sparked deadly riots.

Electoral calender

Initial unofficial results after Sunday's election showed Sall had swept more than 60 percent of votes and Wade surprised the world by phoning his rival to congratulate him on his win, conceding defeat.

The elections commission was due to announce official returns from the election on Tuesday.

Meanwhile Wade decided not to attend a meeting of west African leaders in Abidjan to discuss the recent coup in Mali and will be represented by foreign minister Madicke Niang, said a source at the presidency.

"[Ivorian] President Alassane Ouattara insisted, but a new president has been elected and we don't want to do anything to get in his way," the source said.

The outgoing leader on Tuesday made a farewell visit to the country's religious leaders.

Following its defeat at the polls the Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS) turned its focus to legislative elections on June 17. It currently holds a majority in the 140-seat parliament.

"We ask Macky Sall ... to do everything to ensure the electoral calendar is not modified," said party spokesperson Babacar Gueye.

Several challenges await the new president who is facing heavy expectations from a population tired of unemployment, high food prices, power cuts and a long strike which has crippled the education sector.

Several emergencies

In an interview with AFP this month, Sall, Senegal's first president to be born since independence in 1960, said "several emergencies" loomed.

They included a "dramatic public finance situation" as well as a food crisis in the north where some 800 000 Senegalese are going hungry due to a drought gripping the Sahel region.

Sall said he also wanted to halve the size of the government - slashing the cabinet by some 20 ministers - and reduce Senegal's diplomatic representation abroad.

He would use the savings to lower the prices of basic goods, he said.