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Senegal's Senate Elects Replacement for President in Case of Emergency

Senegal's newly-formed senate has selected its leader who is next in line for the presidency if President Abdoulaye Wade is not able to complete his term. Meanwhile, analysts say the largely one-party legislature, comprised of two houses, gives the president unchecked lawmaking powers. Phuong Tran has more from Dakar.

A change to the constitution earlier this year makes ruling party member Pape Diop, elected Wednesday as senate president, the country's interim leader if the octogenarian president, Abdoulaye Wade, cannot serve.

Diop was one of 65 senators appointed by President Wade. The other 35 won in a vote boycotted by major opposition parties. Of the 35, only one belongs to a non-presidential party.

By boycotting both recent legislative elections, the opposition has created a virtual one-party government.

The country's second house, the assembly, has 150 legislators, with 131 from the president's ruling coalition.

Senegalese legal analyst Abdoulaye Dieye says Senegal's largely one-party government, in place for the next five years, gives President Wade unchecked powers.

Dieye says the president is supported by both the Assembly and Senate. He says the newly-formed Senate, stacked in favor of the ruling coalition, does not have the power to stop the president from adopting whatever law he wants.

But the head of Mr. Wade's political cabinet, Babacar Gaye, dismisses the criticism.

Gaye says it is not uncommon in other democratic countries to have presidential appointees in lawmaking institutions.

He cited Britain, where he says some of the lawmakers are nominated by the queen.

He was, apparently, referring to the House of Lords where in the past some seats were traditionally inherited. Other members were appointed by the ruling party and approved by the monarch.

After his first election in 2000, President Abdoulaye Wade dissolved the senate, calling it a waste of money. Six years later, the second-term president reinstated the lawmaking body, and increased the number of presidential appointees from 20 to 65.

The president has also faced criticism, including from members of his own coalition, for re-organizing the government to position his son Karim Wade to succeed him as president, charges the president has denied.