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President Abdoulaye Wade continued to consolidate power in 2009, announcing his intention to stand for a third term as president in 2012 and creating the appointed position of vice president, apparently for his son. However, the political dominance of Wade’s Senegalese Democratic Party and its broader Sopi (Change) coalition was threatened after the opposition scored victories in municipal elections that were finally held in March after years of delay.
In September 2009, Wade announced that he intended to run for reelection in 2012. While the opposition argued that the bid for a third term was yet another example of Wade’s authoritarian tendencies, other observers characterized the announcement as a ploy designed to stave off rivals within the ruling party until he could position Karim Wade as his successor.
While Senegal’s lucrative trade deal with France, under which it receives $163 million in aid each year, is due to expire in 2010, France increased its aid to $202 million in 2009 after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) offered its qualified approval of Senegal’s financial performance. Also during the year, the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation announced that it had approved a five-year, $540 million grant to Senegal to help reduce poverty.
Senegal is an electoral democracy. The National Observatory of Elections has performed credibly in overseeing legislative and presidential polls since its creation in 1997. The president is elected by popular vote for up to two terms, and the length of the term was extended from five to seven years by a constitutional amendment in 2008. According to President Abdoulaye Wade, who is currently serving his second term, that amendment also made it possible for him to seek a new term in 2012, although the opposition rejects this interpretation.