Senegal | The candidates throw their last forces into the presidential campaign

(Dakar) The presidential candidates in Senegal are holding their last rallies on Friday before Sunday’s vote, at the end of an express but peaceful campaign compared to the months of tension which preceded this unprecedented election.

Amadou Ba and Bassirou Diomaye Faye in particular, considered the two main competitors in perhaps the most open election in the history of independent Senegal, must lend themselves to a final show of force before the end of the campaign on Friday in midnight. All propaganda will then be banned.

The camp of anti-system candidate Bassirou Diomaye Faye, released from prison a week ago in the middle of the campaign, has planned a rally in a stadium at 4 p.m. (local and GMT) in Mbour (west). That of Amadou Ba, prime minister a few weeks ago and designated by the outgoing Macky Sall as the champion of power, indicated that he would hold his last rallies in Dakar and its suburbs.


Electoral sign of Bassirou Diomaye Faye

More than seven million Senegalese are called on Sunday to elect their fifth president in a vote that is completely undecided, and exceptional in many respects.

For the first time, the outgoing leader, in charge for 12 years and largely re-elected in 2019, is not standing for re-election. Senegalese were originally scheduled to vote on February 25, but a last-minute postponement caused unrest and several weeks of confusion that tested Senegal’s democratic practice.

The campaign was shortened from three to two weeks. Eighteen men and one woman, two of whom announced their withdrawal at the end in favor of Mr. Faye, rushed across the country in noisy and colorful processions erected as indicators of a victorious dynamic, wrongly according to experts.

The challenge of the third…

The contenders spent long days outside without eating or drinking due to the postponement of the election and its holding in the middle of the Muslim fasting month.

Amadou Ba and Bassirou Diomaye Faye are given favorites. The publication of polls is prohibited. A second round, the date of which has not been set, seems likely.


Amadou Ba

“We know that these are the two who will come out (of the polls) if there is no tsunami,” said El Hadji Mamadou Mbaye, teacher-researcher at the University of Saint-Louis. “The issue is who will be third and how they will position themselves,” he said.

He mentions the names of the former mayor of Dakar, Khalifa Sall, and Aliou Mamadou Dia, leader of the Unity and Rally Party. Khalifa Sall is cited as a possible spoilsport from the first round. The expert draws attention to the current divisions of the opposition in the event of a second round against the candidate of power.

The election is being watched more closely abroad than it would be in other developing countries. With 18 million inhabitants, Senegal is one of the most stable countries in West Africa shaken by coups d’état.

It has maintained strong relations with the West as Russia expands its influence among its neighbors. It could start producing oil and gas this year.

However, Senegal has experienced various episodes of unrest since 2021. Dozens of people were killed and hundreds arrested, damaging the country’s image, unfairly according to the government.

…and that of peace

Ousmane Sonko, leader of the opposition and actor in a long standoff with power, was disqualified from the presidential election. Released a week ago, he put himself at the service of his second Mr. Faye, presented by his camp as the “candidate for system change”, of recovered sovereignty and “left-wing pan-Africanism”.

Facing him, Amadou Ba stands as a bulwark against the “adventurers”. He promises to continue the momentum driven, according to him, by President Sall and his ambitious development program. He must also take responsibility for his record: persistent poverty, high unemployment, heavy debt, and hundreds of arrests.

The thirst for appeasement “will play a big role. We are coming out of a very tense period. All the candidates present themselves as the one who will reconcile the Senegalese,” says Sidy Diop, deputy editorial director of the daily newspaper Le Soleil.

The release of MM. Faye and Sonko and hundreds of other detainees and an amnesty law contributed to a campaign without notable incident. It was also not very programmatic, says teacher-researcher Mbaye. “People don’t vote for programs; this election is a meeting between a personality and a people.”

An absolute majority of votes cast is required to be elected in the first round. Failing this, the two leading candidates contest a second round.

Provisional results could be known as early as Sunday night.


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