July 18, 2024

Senegal decides on new president amid years of Turmoil


Senegal, a nation gripped by three years of political upheaval and crisis, commenced its presidential election on Sunday, embarking on an uncertain journey towards leadership renewal. With approximately 7.3 million registered voters, the West African country witnesses a duel between two prominent figures: Amadou Ba, a former prime minister representing the governing coalition, and Bassirou Diomaye Faye, an anti-establishment candidate.

Despite both having backgrounds as tax inspectors, their platforms diverge sharply. Ba, aged 62, advocates for continuity, while the 43-year-old Faye promises sweeping change and espouses left-wing pan-Africanism.

The possibility of a first-round victory is asserted by both contenders, yet the likelihood of a runoff looms large, given the presence of 15 other candidates, including the sole female contender, with the date yet to be determined. Khalifa Sall, a former mayor of Dakar at 68, is also considered to possess an outside chance. Amidst this democratic exercise, voter Mohamed Bop, 42, expressed his sentiment, calling it a “symbolic and historic day,” acknowledging the arduous journey to reach this point.

The victor of this electoral contest faces the monumental task of guiding Senegal back to stability amidst recent challenges while responsibly managing forthcoming revenues from the nation’s nascent oil and gas reserves. The voting process, scheduled to conclude at 1800 GMT, may yield provisional results overnight, with official outcomes anticipated in the ensuing week. Senegal’s reputation as a bastion of democracy and stability in a region prone to coups is at stake, particularly with ongoing shifts in global power dynamics, notably Russia’s increased influence.

The campaign period, marked by fervor and lasting a mere two weeks after a tumultuous delay in the election date, witnessed President Macky Sall’s intervention, citing concerns over the vote’s smooth conduct. His decision to postpone triggered unrest, resulting in casualties. Despite criticisms and challenges, Sall’s preferred successor, Ba, presented himself as a stalwart against disorder, emphasizing experience and competence. However, he confronts the shadows of Sall’s tenure, characterized by social discontent, economic challenges, and migration issues.

The recent turbulence in Senegal reflects a broader narrative of unrest since 2021, compounded by political tensions and socioeconomic grievances. The release of opposition figures, including Faye and the influential Ousmane Sonko, following the passage of an amnesty law, has injected further intensity into the electoral discourse. Faye, aligning closely with Sonko, promises radical reforms, challenging established contracts and advocating for sovereignty in international partnerships. As the electorate awaits the outcome, concerns persist regarding potential post-election tensions, particularly in scenarios where Ba secures a first-round victory or Faye’s bid faces setbacks.

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