The word “Third-Term” carries a lot of weight in African politics. This word has now become synonymous with dictatorship in African political culture. Indeed, in every modern state ruled by a written constitution with a republic as a political system, heads of state are generally limited to two terms. Thus, it has then become a political culture and the de facto structure of the executive branch in every modern republican state.
Senegal’s President Macky Sall has declared that he wouldn’t run for a third presidential term. This decision is tremendously important for two fundamental reasons.
The first reason is that this decision will reinstate Senegal’s status as one of the most politically stable countries in Africa. Indeed, Senegal is considered by international standards to be a democracy, one of the most stable democracies in Africa. The country recently experienced political violence following the criminal conviction of Ousmane Sonko.
Speculation grew around President Sall’s potential third-term run, which created a series of political unrest. Indeed, the African continent has experienced much political unrest since the post-independence era due to electoral violence. The peaceful transition of political power has been a serious contention in French-speaking African countries.
In Côte d’Ivoire, for example, the peaceful transfer of political power has never been established as an institutional tradition and culture. From the first president to the incumbent one, political power was transferred through violence. English-speaking African countries have, however, successfully established the peaceful transfer of political power as an institutional culture. In Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa, just to name a few, the peaceful transfer of political power has become the hallmark of their political system. Even Liberia, a country that experienced one of the bloodiest and most brutal civil wars in African political history, has finally established the peaceful transfer of political power as an institutional culture.
Senegal has been, so far, the only French-speaking African country where the peaceful transfer of political power is an institutional culture. The recent political violence that erupted threatened that institutional culture. It is essential to emphasize that the peaceful transfer of political power is one of the quintessential characteristics of the democratic process. Countries are considered democracies if the transfer of political power is done peacefully. It enhances political stability. Thus, the decision of President Sall not to seek another presidential term is a strategic move that will secure his political legacy as a statesman and a great president.
The second fundamental reason is that the preservation of political stability will prop up economic growth. Investors are more confident to invest in a country when that country is politically stable. It indicates that the rule of law is well-established and works. The more investors pour capital into a country’s market, and this leads to economic growth because it stimulates market forces. Senegal is currently growing and is on the path to becoming an emerging market.