History, Political Developments
Abdoulaye Wade, runoff election, presidential term, peaceful end, electoral commission
The popularity Diouf enjoyed in his first years as president began to fade in the mid-1980s, as the economy faltered and many opposition groups protested the ruling Socialist Party’s grip on political power. When Diouf and the Socialist Party won the 1988 presidential and legislative elections by a large majority, the opposition accused the ruling party of electoral fraud and protested by rioting in Dakar. In 1991 Diouf initiated electoral reforms, but the Socialist Party retained control over the electoral commission (which oversees elections and tallies the votes). The presidential term was extended from five to seven years, and a two-term limit was imposed (effective after the next election). Diouf was reelected in 1993, but again the opposition protested, charging electoral fraud. The Socialist Party again won a majority of legislative seats in May 1998 and, in August, voted to abolish the presidential two-term limit. The controversial vote was boycotted by all opposition legislators but one.
In presidential elections held in February and March 2000, the 40-year dominance of the Socialist Party—and Diouf’s 19-year reign—came to a peaceful end. In a runoff election, Diouf was defeated by Abdoulaye Wade, the leader of the PSD. A new constitution, approved by public referendum in January 2001, reduced the presidential term to five years and dissolved the Senate, the upper house of the legislature. A PSD-dominated coalition won an overwhelming majority of the seats in the National Assembly in April legislative elections.
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