News / Africa

Senegal Inaugurates New Parliament

Senegal's President Macky Sall in meetings at the presidential palace, Dakar, July 28, 2012.
Senegal's President Macky Sall in meetings at the presidential palace, Dakar, July 28, 2012.
Nancy Palus
DAKAR -- Senegal is inaugurating a new parliament Monday with a coalition led by the president's party holding a large majority.

The day's mantra among citizens and new lawmakers is “a break from the past” -- a past in which parliament was seen as serving the political elite rather than the people.

The new national assembly takes office about four months into the administration of President Macky Sall, who came to office vowing greater decentralization of power. Last week, President Sall, whose Benno Bokk Yakaar coalition won 119 of 150 seats in an election earlier this month, said the Senegalese people's demands for better governance will require a "rigorous" parliament and effective collaboration between lawmakers and the executive.

The incoming assembly is the first since Senegal adopted a gender parity law designed to boost the number of female legislative candidates. Of its 150 elected representatives, 65 are women -- nearly twice the number of the outgoing parliament.

Civil society members say women tend to be well in tuned to their communities’ needs and their presence is expected to improve the parliament’s responsiveness to the people.

The newly elected lawmakers will serve five-year terms in parliament.

Maintaining stability

West African nations were relieved earlier this year when Senegal -- which has never seen a coup and is known for the relatively sound functioning of its democratic institutions -- got past a tumultuous election and completed another peaceful transition of power.

While the country's political stability is to be lauded, researchers with OSIWA and AfriMAP, both of which are funded by Open Society Foundations, say electoral and constitutional reforms are urgently needed to safeguard stability and improve citizen participation.

While the national assembly has three main functions -- to represent the people, to pass laws, and to provide oversight of the administration -- researchers say previous legislators have fallen short.

Under the current electoral system, say researchers of one Open Society report, lawmakers represent their parties more than their communities, and parliament, historically, has not proven a real check on executive power.

One reason for that, says the report’s author, law professor Ismaïla Madior Fall, is the way lawmakers are elected.
 
"Citizens vote for lists that are drawn up by political party bosses," he said. "Candidates don’t generally emanate from the community level."
 
One of the report’s recommendations is that candidates be nominated by their local constituencies, not by political party leaders.
 
The nomination method, says Hawa Ba, Open Society Initiative’s country officer for Senegal, is one reason people tend not to sense a connection with their lawmakers. In many cases, says Ba, parties name people with means and influence to advance the interests of the party, to the detriment of a would-be representative who might be less influential politically but have a strong attachment to the electorate.
 
"There is a very weak link between representatives and the people they represent," she said. "One would think there would be a big turnout for the legislative polls, given that members of parliament are supposed to address the community’s demands. But the fact that only 36 percent of eligible voters came out in the July 1 legislative election indicates this is not happening."
 
Under the current electoral system, says the report, one party -- usually that of the president -- can too easily dominate the assembly, making it difficult to forge a viable opposition.
 
The report also calls for a minimum education requirement for parliamentarians. Professor Fall says more than one quarter of the outgoing national assembly was illiterate, and basic educational standards could to enhance the body’s overall competence to act as a counterweight to the executive.

Addressing voter disenfranchisement

While some Senegalese say they went to the polls out of a sense of civic duty, many say voting in the legislative election is futile.

"We’re tired of voting for people who forget about us the second they take office," said Hyacinth, a 33-year-old construction worker from Kaolack. "I have voted in the past -- I’m Senegalese and I want to fulfil my role as a citizen, but this time I just didn’t see the use."

According to Ba, although members of parliament must step up, voters also must start demanding more from their leaders, and her organization plans to hold meetings in all of Senegal’s 45 departments where lawmakers will sit and talk with the communities they represent.

You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debatei
X
Shelley Schlender
July 24, 2014 6:43 PM
In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Death Toll From Israel-Gaza Conflict Surpasses 700

Gaza officials say a shelling hit a compound housing a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip, killing more than a dozen people, during an Israeli offensive in the area. Heavy fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas militants continued on Thursday, pushing up the death toll. So far, more than 730 Palestinians and 35 Israelis have been killed in the conflict. VOA's Scott Bobb has the latest from Jerusalem.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Researchers Target Low-Cost Avatar Technology

Scientists at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies say 3-dimensional representations could revolutionize social media. Elizabeth Lee has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid