Does Democracy Require an Opposition Party?

Consensual Symbolism and Elections in Africa
  • Donal B. Cruise O’Brien


Abdoulaye Wade’s election as President of Senegal in February 2000, standing as leader of a multi-party coalition, the Front pour l’Alternance (FAL) or Turnover Front, could be heard as the Senegalese people’s resounding answer to the above question—-yes\ The second round of this presidential election, requiring that the opposition unite around a single candidate, gave a result which surprised a great many Senegalese people. Senegal after all has seen many elections over the past half century, many opposition candidates and parties, but the incumbents had always won. The governing party might change its name, but it never lost control of the national assembly or the presidency. Opposition parties decorated the political environment, they helped to legitimise the regime with its international creditors, they provided innocent employment to various political enthusiasts, but one had almost given up believing that they could actually win. Election rules had been tightened up, to be sure, eliminating the more flagrant abuses of government control, and the opposition now had monitors at all polling stations, these were crucial facilitating factors,1 helping to make it possible for the Turnover Front not only to win, but to do so crushingly. Abdoulaye Wade now defeated the outgoing president, Abdou Diouf, by a margin of three votes to two, a huge margin, in almost all regions of the country.2


Political Party Democratic Transition Opposition Parti Military Regime Election Rule 
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© Donal B. Cruise O’Brien 2003

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  • Donal B. Cruise O’Brien

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