n Journal of African Elections - Party-voter linkage in Senegal : the rise and fall of Abdoulaye Wade and the Parti Démocratique Sénégalais

Volume 12, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1609-4700



In March 2012 Abdoulaye Wade was defeated by Macky Sall in the hotly contested presidential elections in Senegal. This article uses the concept of party-voter linkage to examine how and why Wade and his party, the Parti Démocratique Sénégalais (PDS), lost touch with the electorate. It is argued that this failure must be viewed within the context of a complex process of social change that challenged traditional, often clientelistic, forms of linkage. As an alternative strategy, the PDS emphasised the personal charisma of its leader. Charismatic linkage, however, is naturally unstable, and the PDS began to lose public support. These findings suggest that political parties in Senegal cannot build their strategies on clientelism and charisma alone, they will have to begin to compete over issues and develop programmatic visions. If this challenge is not taken up, the long-term prospects for democratic representation and effective linkage are uncertain.

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