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Senegal's President Seeks Re-Election Amid Worsening Problems

The ruling party in Senegal has named 80-year-old President Abdoulaye Wade as its candidate for presidential elections next year. He faces tough questions about power shortages and unemployment.

President Wade faces tough questions about his record, as he runs for a second term in elections scheduled for February.

In the past year, frequent power cuts, especially in the capital city of Dakar, have frustrated residents and hurt business, and have forced the director-general of the national electricity company to submit his resignation.

The government has repeatedly said it is getting the problem under control, but power shortages have spread to other parts of Senegal.

Alassane Diop, a journalist who has been covering politics for more than 10 years, most recently for the influential, independent Dakar radio station, RFM, says Senegal has other serious problems, including poverty and high unemployment.

Former prime minister Idrissa Seck is considered by many to be Wade's prime rival in the coming election. He has promised more jobs for Senegal's unemployed youth, thousands of whom have tried to reach Europe in hopes of a better future.

Seck was jailed last year on corruption charges, but was released without being tried. One of his supporters recently told VOA, many Senegalese politicians are corrupt, and that Seck may be as well, but that at least he gets things done.

He cited as an example infrastructure improvements and growing investment in the city of Thies, where Seck recently served as mayor.

Diop says another issue likely to be a factor in the campaign s Wade's age.

He is 80-years-old, on paper, Diop says, but many people say he is as old as 84.

The bureaucracy in Senegal in the 1920s, when Wade was born, was ineffective, and so now it is hard to say what his real age is. One thing is for certain, though, Diop says, he is at least 80-years old.

A large majority of Senegal's population is under 25.

This will be the sixth time Wade has been a candidate for president. He ran unsuccessfully against the Socialist party, which ruled Senegal continuously for four decades, until he won election in 2000.