Senegal: a very very open presidential election this Sunday, March 24

Senegal: a very very open presidential election this Sunday, March 24

After weeks of serious political crisis, the Senegalese will vote this Sunday March 24 for the first round of the presidential election. This very open election is taking place in a particular context, with a shortened electoral campaign, and raises many issues.

More than 7 million voters are preparing to vote this Sunday March 24 to elect the fifth president of Senegal. They will be spoiled for choice with no less than 18 candidates, 17 men and one woman, for this very open ballot. After weeks of uncertainty, many are eager to express their voice at the ballot box. The country went through a serious political crisis following the decision, on February 3, of President Macky Sall to postpone the presidential elections, initially scheduled for February 25, a few hours before the launch of the electoral campaign. A decision with serious consequences which has deeply undermined Senegalese democracy and provoked an outcry from political actors, civil society and citizens in the face of measures deemed authoritarian.

Serial twists and turns

It was following the rejection by the Constitutional Council of the candidacy of Karim Wade, its candidate, that the Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS) of former president Abdoulaye Wade accused two of the institution's judges of corruption as well as the former prime minister and presidential majority candidate, Amadou Ba. In the process, a law postponing the holding of the vote until December 15, tabled by the PDS and supported by the presidential majority, was adopted to allow “ holding a transparent and inclusive vote “. Perceived by several observers as a “ institutional coup “, this postponement provoked strong reactions and gave rise to harshly repressed demonstrations, causing four deaths. As concerns grew, the Constitutional Council stood in the way, recalling that the presidential mandate ends on April 2, a new date must be set before this deadline. A national dialogue desired by President Macky Sall, boycotted by opposition candidates, then proposed an election on June 2, the reopening of the list of candidates as well as the maintenance in power of the president until the handover with his successor. So many measures once again rejected by the Constitutional Council. The end of the crisis finally took shape on March 6. While the National Assembly adopted a general amnesty law, much criticized, concerning the facts occurring during the demonstrations between February 2021 and 2024, the government set March 24 for the first round to be held.

So many developments which have damaged the image of President Macky Sall. In 12 years of power, if its economic record is praised with the completion of major infrastructure projects and social measures, violent police repressions (around sixty deaths between March 2021 and February 2024), mass arrests of political opponents and the internet shutdown during his second term are widely criticized. His detractors accuse him of having prevented his most serious opponents from competing in the presidential elections by exploiting justice.

Open ballot

This campaign mobilizes a lot because we are emerging from a political crisis. And in this one, it is up to the Senegalese people to decide » underlines Maurice Soudieck Dione, professor of political science at Gaston Berger University in Saint Louis. For the first time, the outgoing president will not be a candidate. With a campaign shortened to 12 days, compared to 21, the candidates had to adapt and lead a lightning electoral campaign, especially during the period of Ramadan and Lent. An even greater challenge for the coalition of candidate Bassirou Diomaye Faye, incarcerated since last April. Little known but loyal lieutenant, the 43-year-old man was chosen by Ousmane Sonko to lead the project of his dissolved Pastef party after the rejection of his candidacy due to legal conviction. Both imprisoned, they were finally released under the amnesty law on March 14. The party capitalized on the similarities between the two men with its slogan “Diomaye is Sonko” to allow the dolphin to benefit from the popularity of his elder brother. His pan-Africanist, anti-corruption and sovereignist discourse appeals to young people (75% of the population is under 35), frustrated by high unemployment and the feeling of being excluded from political life. Emigration, youth and the management of natural resources were among the main issues addressed in this campaign. Among the favorites, this “candidate of rupture” faces Amadou Ba, candidate of continuity, supported by the presidential movement. Started three years ago, the standoff between Macky Sall and Ousmane Sonko now continues through their runners-up. Facing these two headliners, three other candidates from the presidential clan are also in the running. We also find two figures of Senegalese politics: Khalifa Sall, former mayor of Dakar, prevented from being a candidate in 2019 by a judicial conviction, and Idrissa Seck, who came 2nd in the 2019 elections and who is presenting his 4th candidacy.

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