Senegal: “This democratic coup is a guarantee of the relevance of a democracy that is often overwhelmed but so precious”


Senegal: “This democratic coup is a guarantee of the relevance of a democracy that is often overwhelmed but so precious”

Tribune. With the triumph of Bassirou Diomaye Faye in the presidential election, a long and trying political sequence has just ended in Senegal. Without taking anything away from the latter's merit, the central figure of this victory remains his mentor, Ousmane Sonko. An absentee so omnipresent. The fledgling Senegalese democracy, recently bullied by the culpable stubbornness of the old regime, held on.

Better still, it emerges strengthened by this unprecedented election, both in its accelerated process, in its chaotic start, and up to this resounding victory of the opposition in the first round. It further places the country in a particular position, that of a beacon in a Sahelian region sick of political transitions.

The first words of the new strong man of Dakar, improvised and a little hesitant, gave unifying pledges. Without too flashy triumphalism, and far from the radical greenness of the discourse which was for a long time the identity of the Pastef party, this weighting is the logical continuation of an express campaign of pacification. A shift during which the Ousmane Sonko-Bassirou Diomaye Faye tandem, upon leaving prison, spared its main tormentor, the outgoing president Macky Sall, sacrificing more radical invective on the altar of forced reconciliation.

Faced with the legitimate euphoria of a people sovereign through the ballot box, it is nevertheless appropriate to examine the entire picture of this latest political sequence, with distance and composure. It reveals, among other aporias and gray areas, wounds that it will be up to the new regime to heal. A healing which will be necessary for the country to reconquer what it holds most dear politically, and which it lost in the battle: its national cohesion.

Inanity of a dying regime

Above all, we cannot fail to credit Ousmane Sonko for having firmly stood up to this regime. This victory is first and foremost his. Through astonishing resilience, political engineering, endurance, the former tax inspector is the architect of this meteoric rise of Pastef. In ten years, from the cozy salons of taxes and estates, the band of rebellious inspectors at the origin of this young political party has made its way to the top of the country.

Cornered but supported by a determined youth, they accomplished a revolution, a democratic coup d’état. Through the scale of its programmatic work and the political flair which led it to open itself to the advice of a university elite and on the left, the party gave itself substance. The junction between this methodical political work and a popular force articulated around the messianic figure of Ousmane Sonko are the keys to success in a global context of disengagement where populism is a blowing wind.

The fact remains that he also benefits from the inanity of a dying regime, which has multiplied the failures to the point of parasitizing the internal candidacy, that of Amadou Ba, unloved heir of Macky Sall. The latter's indefensible record, for which he is fully accountable for the country's state of torn apart, condemned the majority candidate to an electoral ceiling. Bassirou Diomaye Faye of course benefits from a vote of adhesion, but the useful vote and the vote of rejection thus accentuated the scale of this referendum-like victory.

Despite themselves, Macky Sall and a quartet of hawks from his regime have been the actors, over the last few years, in the rise of Pastef. In their desire to liquidate their adversary, by using disproportionate means beyond all reason, they created a martyr. Very symbol of injustice. This repressive relentlessness is the primary cause of a national divide, the venom of which remains diffuse. The country has lost a lot, both economically and in terms of stability.

Radical defiance

However, if Macky Sall bears primary responsibility for the recent chaos in Senegal, it is important at the time of Pastef's triumph not to forget what this party bears as responsibility for the escalation of violence. In the general euphoria, faced with a cornered regime destined for defeat, an analytical and hemiplegic opportunism has passed over in silence the long outrageous lexicon of a party which has been tempted by counter-violence.

Victim of unprecedented repression, with the incarceration without trial and without established grievances of nearly a thousand supporters of Ousmane Sonko, Pastef theorized a radical defiance against the institutions, legitimizing through its most extreme fringes a desire of insurrection. He was responsible for a terror theorized by the notion of “gatsa-gatsa” (an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth). Born from a conviction which traveled through the party and received the assent of the leaders, the idea is simple: Macky Sall only knows violence, and counter-violence is therefore logical and legitimate. This virilism also translated into an inquisitorial logic, summoning each member or sympathizer of Pastef to take sides.

This hunt for traitors flourished, among other places, on social networks, where the hunt resembled McCarthyism. A democratically tragic consequence, the entire plurality of the debate was stifled. By deepening polarization, it is intellectual speech that has often died out, unquestioningly taking the simplest side.

Pastef now loses a part of its rhetoric with the exit from the scene of Macky Sall, such a useful enemy. The party will have to survive it, to fully assume the heavy task of getting the country off the ground. With this legacy of the struggle, and carried in its first political offer by a societal conservatism – illustrated for example in the lack of regard for the rights of women or sexual minorities – and by a series of risky and sexist outings and a populism latent, Pastef has a challenge now that he is in power: cleaning up a practice and a lexicon. Abandon bellicose references, reject the most radical and violent courtiers by leaving behind the logic of blind amnesty, to look to the future.

Vigilance is required

If this liability remains a dent in the deserving journey of this young party, it is important not to sink into the catastrophism that we see flourishing in certain analyzes often tinged with contempt for the supposed “nickel-plated feet” of politics.

The mentions which indicate a Salafist Brotherhood ancestry of the party, a desire for a sharp break with France, are very out of touch with reality, at best premature, at worst malicious. They fuel this fantasy with colonial overtones of barbarism always on the lookout.

Certainly, the party was the subject of an intense operation to seduce neo-Pan-African activists and pro-Russian forces, sensing the capture that such a capture would be. But we will have to wait for the first orientations of the new government before deciding on the allies it will choose. Bassirou Diomaye Faye will have to face the realism necessary for the presidential function, rise to the height of the position and lead with skill, method, sobriety, all the qualities that are attributed to him.

While vigilance is therefore required, it is important, however, not to condemn the euphoria and momentum of this revolution. It carries great hope, embodied by a party which, moreover, after a seditious temptation in its relations with France, has evolved towards a less conflictual ambition, driven by a desire for rebalancing, for accuracy, for redefining the terms of the 'exchange. All in all, classic elements of Pan-African and sovereignist grammar.

A Senegalese democracy on the move

The future in Senegal is uncertain. This is the essence of all alternation. They are all the more so since the last three years have slowed down the economy, strained the state budget and cooled the financial markets. It is in the interest of all Senegalese people, even the most defiant, that Pastef succeeds. In the sub-regional context of unraveling democracy, this burst of panache, a sort of democratic coup d'état, must embody pan-African hope. A guarantee of the relevance of a democracy that is often overwhelmed but so precious.

One of the conditions for success is that the new strong men prove themselves, that they thwart the potential crisis of egos at the top, that they broaden their political offer without dogmatism and soften their radicalism to transform the euphoria which brought them to power as the foundation of a new political momentum. Pastef has real provisions in this sense, notably with a strong social content in their program to materialize.

The other condition for success is the goodwill of those who had doubts about this young party, or who were frankly against it. It’s up to them to put aside resentments and obsessions, and to approach this political turning point with curiosity and openness. Oppose without doubt, and that is one of the ways to keep democracy alive. But for all that, give Pastef a hard-won chance.

Putting Senegal back at the heart of the concerns of Pastef and its opponents will be the only way to escape the logic of “them against us”. All in all, the coming months will establish whether what is rightly called a democratic coup d'état ends in chaos and violence which has all the makings of a coup d'état, or turns out to be one of the most striking manifestations of Senegalese democracy. working. There are no secrets that time does not reveal.