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date: 25 April 2019


A Dictionary of African Politics

Nicholas Cheeseman


A French term that has become associated with the transfer of power from one party to another in parts of francophone West Africa, most notably Senegal. Towards the end of the forty-one years the Senegalese Progressive Union (later renamed the Socialist Party) held office, opposition leaders and some civil society groups argued that a country cannot be called a democracy if it features continued dominance by one political party—even if it operates a multiparty system. On this understanding, the willingness of the government to accept defeat and permit alternance is the true measure of democracy. Senegal experienced its first transfer of power through the ballot box in 2000, when Abdoulaye Wade’s SOPI (change) coalition took power with 58 per cent of the vote in a second-round run-off against the Socialist Party’s Abdou Diouf.