How will the new president Bassirou Diomane Faye manage Senegal?

How will the new president Bassirou Diomane Faye manage Senegal?

Two weeks ago, he was released from prison, today he is taking up residence at the presidential palace.

At 44 years old, Bassirou Diomane Faye (BDF), former tax inspector, has already entered the history of Senegal and Africa.

Imprisoned in April 2023, Bassirou Diomane Faye is indicted and imprisoned for contempt of court, defamation and acts likely to compromise public peace following the dissemination of a critical message against Senegalese justice in the various cases targeting its leader Ousmane Sonko . Three months later, he was joined behind bars by his mentor, accused in particular of calling for insurrection.

Eleven months later, ten days before the presidential election, the two men were released following an amnesty law passed by the National Assembly. Sonko is free but cannot appear. Bassirou Diomane Faye will carry the hopes of most of the Senegalese opposition and especially of the youth, those under 25 represent half of the electorate.

The “substitute candidate”, carried by the shadow of his “big brother” Sonko wins the presidential election since the first round with more than 54%. Historical. A man with no political past will therefore take up the presidency of Senegal. He will now have to manage a country and institutions shaken by months of intense tensions. Above all, he will have to respond quickly to the immense expectations of a population which mobilized massively to offer him this seat and he will also have to manage his cohabitation with the fiery Ousmane Sonko to whom he owes his meteoric rise.

Call for change

This overwhelming victory in the first round demonstrates the desire for change launched by the Senegalese. A form of disengagement from the traditional political class. This broad success also offers great room for maneuver to the new president who will have to appoint a Prime Minister and form his government. The only clues given by the new strong man during his first speech on March 25, this government “will be composed of men and women of valor and virtue. Of Senegalese men and women, from the interior and the diaspora, known for their competence, their integrity and their patriotism.”

He and Sonko have led their ongoing campaign in recent months, even years, on a promise of a clean break. The response from the ballot boxes gives them every latitude. Bassirou Diomane Faye crushed all opposition. The candidate of the outgoing government, former Prime Minister Amadou Ba, the man of continuity of the Macky Sall system, only received 35.79% of the votes. The other 17 presidential candidates received less than 3% of the vote. The third man, Aliou Mamadou Dia, only obtained 2.8% of the votes, which gives an idea of ​​what all the other contenders were able to collect.

All of Bassirou Diomane Faye's choices will therefore be scrutinized by an entire people and an entire region shaken by coups d'état in recent years.

With this mandate, the new president will not be able to choose a Prime Minister from the political inner circle. It will be necessary to find a personality who embodies the rupture but without going too far to avoid alienating the African and international community. The Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS) of former president Abdoulaye Wade, who gave him his support in the very final stretch of the campaign, is the only traditional formation that can dare to claim to join the government. But it will certainly be in a homeopathic dose.

The balance will be decisive between new faces, who must respond to the call of voters, and a few “personalities”, perhaps from the diaspora, who will have to reassure the outside world. Without this subtle dosage, the young president will quickly see his popularity crumble.

His first trips, his first international meetings will also be worth their weight in symbols. Paris, the traditional destination of the new Senegalese power, is no longer an option. A shorter trip to one's Malian or Guinean neighbors could upset many people.

He has to look for people who have networks. Not necessarily to play the leading roles, perhaps even invisible ones, but people who can open doors to him abroad. It's essential”, explains an African diplomat. If he manages to find this very particular balance Bassirou Diomane Faye can become the representative of a new Africa not subservient to one bloc or the other. He has the popular base to do it.

What about Sonko?

The other big question concerns the role that Ousmane Sonko, the man who made Bassirou Diomane Faye, will play. In its program, their party, Pastef, proposes the creation of a position of vice-president. But this new position should only be effective after the next presidential election, in 2029. This program also provides for a reduction in the powers of the President of the Republic.

The solution regularly mentioned is to entrust Ousmane Sonko with the presidency of the National Assembly after the dissolution of parliament. He would thus become the second personage of the State. The dissolution of parliament should be quickly proposed. For those close to the new president, this scenario is obvious. The deputies who currently have a majority are cronies of the old power. If he wants to be able to drive a new policy, Bassirou Diomane Faye needs a parliamentary majority; he now has a positive momentum which should allow his party to win in the event of early legislative elections.

The overwhelming victory in the presidential election is a major asset but is not a guarantee of tranquility. In the first weeks, the first choices will be decisive.

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