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Senegalese Opposition Figure Rejoins President's Party


Journalists, politicians and observers in Senegal are expressing surprise at the announcement that popular opposition figure, former Prime Minister Idrissa Seck, is rejoining the camp of President Abdoulaye Wade. But they differ on what the move will mean for a presidential election scheduled to take place next month, for which Mr. Wade is the favorite. Naomi Schwarz reports from Dakar.

President Wade likened his role to that of a father bringing wayward sons back into his family, when he announced Monday that Idrissa Seck, his recently jailed rival, would rejoin the ruling Senegalese Democratic Party.

But others thought the reconciliation, which comes only weeks before presidential polls are set to open, was unexpected.

It is a huge surprise, said Alassane Diop, a prominent local journalist. Nobody thought that Idrissa Seck and Abdoulaye Wade were going to sit together and reconcile, he says.

Seck, who had been running against Mr. Wade in the presidential election, had also announced the creation of a new party. He is now expected to drop out of the race. This will help Wade, says Diop.

If he comes back to work with Wade, he says, it is sure to give more strength to Wade's candidacy.

Seck served as prime minister until Mr. Wade fired him in 2004, under speculation that he was trying to eliminate a popular political rival.

Seck later served more than six months in jail, in connection with charges of embezzlement and threatening state security. He has denied the allegations, and he was released in February last year.

Moustapha Fall Tche, the spokesman for the opposition coalition, the People's Coalition for Alternative, known as CPA, says Seck's move was not entirely unexpected, but he says that Seck's supporters will not follow him to Mr. Wade's party.

"It is not because they like Idrissa Seck," he says. "They are first of all against Abdoulaye Wade."

He says that even members of Seck's Rewmi party have been talking to the CPA about staying in the opposition.

Some politicians called him a traitor. One newspaper headline said Seck's reversal was what it called "hallucinating." Other commentators speculated that Seck had been promised to become Mr. Wade's eventual successor.

Mr. Wade, known for his liberal politics, is officially listed as 80, but many politicians believe he is 84. He was elected in 2000 ending more than four decades of post-independence Socialist party rule.