Sat. Apr 20th, 2024

The Senegalese elect their new president. sident Sunday

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Supporters of opposition candidate Bassirou Diomaye Faye gathered in the city of Mbour on the 22nd March 2024.

Agence France-Presse

The Senegalese elect their fifth president on Sunday in a vote with a completely unpredictable outcome which will decide between continuity and perhaps radical change after three years of agitation and political crisis.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">Some 7.3 million voters are called upon to choose, in around 16,000 polling stations across the country and abroad, between power candidate, Amadou Ba, and 16 competitors, including a woman and the anti-system Bassirou Diomaye Faye.

Amadou Ba, 62 years old, prime minister just a few weeks ago of outgoing president Macky Sall who appointed him as his heir apparent, and Bassirou Diomaye Faye, 43 years old, the candidate for system change and a left-wing pan-Africanism, are given favorites. The first would keep the country on its trajectory. The victory of the second could herald a real systemic challenge.

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Amadou Ba during an electoral rally, March 22, 2024

They both claim to be able to win on Sunday without going through a second round, which seems likely, but the date of which has not been set. Former Dakar mayor Khalifa Sall, 68, is cited as an unlikely candidate.

Offices are open until 6 p.m. a.m., local time. First unofficial provisional results could be published overnight. Partial official results are expected this week.

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The election is being followed closely, with Senegal considered one of the most stable countries in West Africa shaken by putsch. Dakar maintains strong relations with the West, while Russia strengthens its surrounding positions.

Civil society, the African Union , the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the European Union deploy hundreds of observers.

Senegalese were originally scheduled to vote on February 25, but a last-minute postponement sparked violence that left four people dead. Several weeks of confusion tested Senegal's democratic practice, until the date of March 24 was decided. The campaign was reduced to two weeks, in the middle of the Muslim fasting month.

For the first time, the outgoing president, in charge for 12 years and largely re-elected in 2019, is not running for re-election.

Amadou Ba se present as a continuation of its action and as a bulwark against adventurers and amateurs.

We don't need managers who need two years of learning […] We need to consolidate what we have learned. We need to go even faster and further, he said at his last campaign rally on Friday.

He promises to create one million jobs in five years. However, he must assume the legacy of President Sall, persistent poverty, high unemployment, heavy debt, the departure by canoe of thousands of people each year for Europe, and hundreds of arrests during recent protests.

Since 2021, the country has experienced episodes of unrest caused by the standoff between Ousmane Sonko, guide of candidate Diomaye Faye, combined with social tensions and the vagueness long maintained by President Sall over his candidacy for a third term. The crisis continued with the postponement of the presidential election.

Dozens of people were killed and hundreds arrested, undermining the #x27;image of the country, unfairly according to the government.

MM. Sonko and Faye, detained for months, were released on March 14 after the campaign opened. Mr. Sonko, disqualified from the presidential election, put himself at the service of his second Mr. Faye.

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Bassirou Diomaye Faye during an electoral rally, March 22, 2024

Much less popular and charismatic than Mr. Sonko, Mr. Faye assured during a final rally on Friday that he was ready to become president. He and Mr. Sonko attack Mr. Ba as the perpetuator of President Sall’s governance and as a billionaire civil servant. Coming like Mr. Ba from the senior tax administration, Mr. Faye questions the origin of his former colleague's fortune.

Mr. Faye promised on Friday a refoundation of Senegal, a popular project in neighboring countries. His program plans to renegotiate mining and hydrocarbon contracts and defense agreements. He and Mr. Sonko worked to reassure foreign investors.

We will now be a sovereign, independent state, which will collaborate with everyone, but in win-win partnerships and not in leonine contracts, said Mr. Sonko on Friday.

Senegal could join the circle of producers in 2024 gas and oil.

Experts have little fear of significant fraud during the vote, but do not rule out tensions in the event of victory of Mr. Ba in the first round, or an absence of Mr. Faye in the second.

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