The Administration of Elections – Senegal

The Administration of Elections


Government institutions directly involved in the organization of electoral activities include the Ministry of the Interior, and the Autonomous National Electoral Committee (CENA). Other institutions such as the Constitutional Court, the Court of Appeals of Dakar, and the National Audiovisual Regulatory Council (CNRA) also play a role in the electoral process, at a later stage.

The Ministry of the Interior

The Senegalese Ministry of the Interior is charged with the organization of elections. Following the creation of the CENA, some of the prerogatives of the Ministry of the Interior, namely the role of control and supervision, have been devolved to the CENA. The transfer of certain functions to the CENA, however, does not reduce the prominent role played by the Ministry of Interior in the electoral process.

The issuance of national identification cards, for example, remains a prerogative of the Ministry of the Interior. This significant role of the Ministry of the Interior in the management of elections led former President Abdoulaye Wade, in the midst of a political rally of his party, to create a new Ministry of Elections on July 23, 2011. Wade appointed Cheikh Guèye , a longtime civil servant widely considered “neutral” to the post. Guèye was a former Director General of Elections, a position to which he had been appointed by President Abdou Diouf. President Wade’s initiative was a political response to the significant events of June 23, 2011 during a day of national protest for political transparency. It was also a means of responding to the increasing lack of credibility of the Ministry of Interior, headed by the attorney Ousmane NGom, who was a leading member of President Wade’s ruling party (PDS).

Following the second democratic change of government in Senegal, on March 25, 2012, the newly-elected President, Macky Sall, eliminated the Ministry of Elections and gave back to the Ministry of the Interior all its former prerogatives in the organization of elections. Following the recommendations of the Good Governance Charter of the 2009 National Dialogue (dialogue initiated by the opposition and civil society to produce a political road map for Senegal), President Sall appointed a neutral personality, General Pathe Seck, as Minister of Interior, during the cabinet reshuffle of October 30, 2012.

The Autonomous National Electoral Committee (CENA)

President Abdou Diouf created the National Observatory of Elections (ONEL) by the Law 95-15 of September 8, 1997, with two stated concerns in mind: on the one hand to keep up with the wave of democratization of African regimes initiated in the 1990s, and on the other hand to guarantee a transparent and peaceful electoral process. Following the first democratic change of government in Senegal in 2000, President Abdoulaye Wade eliminated the National Observatory of Elections to replace it with the Autonomous National Electoral Committee (CENA), created by Law 2005-07 of May 11, 2005. The CENA has representative agencies in the regions and districts. The prerogatives of the CENA are to control and to supervise elections. (Article LO.11 of the Electoral Code).

The CENA is composed of 12 members including a Chairman and a Secretary General. They are chosen from among the Senegalese who are not members of political parties and who are known for their independence and moral probity. They are appointed by the President of the CENA after consultation with professional organizations for a period of 6 years. The members of the CENA are renewed by thirds every three years. The CENA is a permanent structure with permanent delegates who observe the entire electoral process. At the end of the elections the CENA provides a report highlighting the shortcomings and makes proposals to improve the electoral process.

The first article of the Law 2995-07 of May 11, 2005, creating the CENA, grants legal and financial autonomy to this institution. The objective of this legal and financial autonomy is to preserve the CENA’s independence vis-à-vis other institutions, so as to enable it to implement its mandate without being subject to pressure. However, the reality is that several members of the CENA have been subject to intense pressure. A perfect example is the resignation of Moustapha Touré as Chair of the CENA in November 2009. Touré resigned after President Abdoulaye Wade had notified him that he no longer had confidence in him, and asked him to “return” the mandate conferred upon him.

The CENA is one of the entities in charge of managing elections that is credible in the views of political leaders and civil society. It has been the subject of some controversies, including the challenges by part of the opposition to the nomination of Moustapha Touré as Chair of the CENA, his subsequent forced resignation, and protests about the fact that the Minister of Interior, Ousmane NGom ignored the CENA decision that the opposition “June 23 Movement” be allowed to stage a protest in Dakar in election times. The CENA itself, however, has not been contested as a political body.

Useful links and documentary resources

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