Presidential election: the Senegalese begin counting with undecided result

Presidential election: the Senegalese begin counting with undecided result

Senegal began counting the presidential ballots on Sunday after the first round of this election with a totally unpredictable outcome after three years of agitation and political crisis.

The offices officially closed at the scheduled time of 6:00 p.m. (local and GMT) before immediately beginning counting operations. Polling agents dumped the envelopes contained in the ballot boxes on a table.

Voters queued in dozens or hundreds during the day in front of different offices, without any exact assessment of participation (which was 66% in 2019) being provided. No notable incidents were reported and several voters expressed their satisfaction at voting, after the unrest caused by the postponement of the election.

“We finally got there. Alhamdoulila (Praise be to God). Recent times have not been easy for the Senegal »welcomed Mita Diop. “But that’s all behind us,” rejoiced this 51-year-old trader in front of a polling station in Dakar.

First unofficial provisional results could be published overnight. The date of a possible second round has not been set.

The leader of the anti-system opposition Ousmane Sonko, who campaigned for his second Bassirou Diomaye Faye because he himself was disqualified, spoke of record mobilization, in particular of the young people on whom his camp bases its hopes, after having voted in his stronghold of Ziguinchor (south).

The two main competitors, Mr. Faye and Amadou Ba, declared themselves “confident” of a victory in the first round.

” Caution “

Outgoing President Macky Sall, who voted with his wife in Fatick (central-west), warned against premature claims of victory.

Some 7.3 million voters were asked to choose between 17 competitors, including one woman.

Amadou Ba, 62 years old, heir and Prime Minister just a few weeks ago of President Sall, and Bassirou Diomaye Faye, 43 years old, the “candidate for system change” and “left-wing Pan-Africanism”, are given as favorites a competition which will decide between continuity and perhaps radical change.

The former mayor of Dakar Khalifa Sall, 68, is cited as an outsider.

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 are deploying hundreds of observers.

The Senegalese were initially scheduled to vote on February 25. The ballot boxes and Sunday bulletins always bore this date.

The postponement of the vote sparked violence which 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, falling in the middle of the Muslim fasting month.

Despite these delays, EU observers noted that the operations had taken place “quietly, efficiently and (in a) very orderly manner”said the head of the mission, Malin Björk.

This is the first time that an outgoing president has not run for re-election.

“New bases”

Amadou Ba presents himself as heir to President Sall's actions and as a bulwark against the “adventurers” and the “amateurs”. “We will consolidate, we will deepen, we will accelerate, we will improve and we will go faster”he said while voting with his wife in Dakar.

Mr. Faye described himself as a “ choice for breakup » by voting alongside his two wives in his village of Ndiaganiao (west).

“Macky Sall has worked a lot and that’s why I’m going to vote for Amadou Ba, to continue the work”says Ndeye Penda Faye, a 23-year-old cleaning lady in Dakar.

On the contrary, Diaraaf Gaye, a 26-year-old trader, “voted Diomaye without thinking”. “It is time for the country to start on a new basis with young people” in power, he said.

Mr. Ba must deal with President Sall's legacy of persistent poverty, high unemployment, and hundreds of arrests in recent times.

Since 2021, the country has experienced episodes of unrest caused by the standoff between Ousmane Sonko and those in power, 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, damaging the country's image, unfairly according to the government.

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