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Senegalese Elections: A Triumph of Democracy

Elections Postponed

            Senegal is often heralded as “the only coup-free democracy in West Africa.” In early February, fear echoed throughout the international community about the end of this truth. Senegal was set to hold its 2024 elections on February 25th, with campaigns beginning on the 4th. On February 3rd, President Macky Sall announced that he was postponing the elections indefinitely. Sall claimed that he was concerned about the disqualification of some candidates. 

Ousame Sonko

In Senegal, the Constitutional Council oversees elections. One of their roles is ensuring that everyone is eligible to be on the ballot. Sall claimed that he wanted to ensure that the Constitutional Council was acting in accordance with the law. Before the 2024 elections, the council disqualified two candidates: Karim Wade and Ousmane Sonko. The public was skeptical of Sonko’s disqualification, as Sonko was seen as the largest candidate in opposition to the current government. After being convicted of two charges of immoral behavior and “corrupting the youth”, Sonko was declared unqualified to run. Sall himself reassured the citizens of Senegal that he had no intentions to run for a third term, something that he himself outlawed in his first term as President. 

Karim Wade

Initially, his action of postponing the election was questioned. Ultimately, the legitimacy of this postponement was sent to the National Assembly, the legislature of Senegal. There, Sall’s action was legalized, and the National Assembly set a new election date of December 15th. However, news was then released that suggested that 30 members of the National Assembly were removed by police force before the vote was held. All removed members were of parties in opposition to President Sall. 

            A complaint was filed regarding the removal of these members and the postponement of the elections. On February 15th, the Constitutional Council reversed Sall’s decree and declared that the elections were to be held immediately and before Sall’s term expired on April 2nd. In response, Sall agreed to hold the elections on March 24th. 


Candidates & Disqualifications

            In January, a total of 93 candidates had submitted campaign registrations to the Constitutional Council. The council reviewed these submissions and ultimately rejected several candidates. Most of the disqualified members were found to lack enough sponsorships. Candidates can get on the ballot by getting signatures from 1 percent of the voting population – roughly 70,000 signatures. In order to ensure wide geographic support (i.e. support from both rural and urban regions), candidates must have at least 2,000 signatures from seven different regions (of the fourteen total regions).

Alternatively, candidates can be sponsored by elected officials. They can be sponsored by 13 members of the National Assembly or by 120 mayors or heads of regional councils. These sponsors are only allowed to sponsor a single candidate per election cycle. In addition to these requirements, candidates must pay a deposit of 30 million CFA francs ($49,710 USD). Any candidate for President must also renounce their citizenship in any other nation.

19 candidates met these requirements and were eligible to be on the ballot. This is the largest number of candidates in Senegalese history. Additionally, this is the only election in Senegalese history to not have an incumbent (currently-serving elected official) on the ballot. 

 

President Macky Sall

President Macky Sall

            President Sall has served as the Senegalese leader for twelve years. He was first elected in 2012 after defeating former President Abdoulaye Wade, who was seeking a third seven-year term. Upon being elected, Sall made two constitutional reforms: the first limited any president to two terms of service and the second limited each term to six years. Since Sall was elected to a seven-year term in 2012, he agreed to only serve a five-year term when he was elected in 2019. While Sall is not running for a third term, many were afraid that his actions with the elections were an attempt to push the elections in favor of his own party, which currently holds the majority in the National Assembly.

           

 

The Frontrunners

Polling Lines on Election Day

Heading into the election on Sunday, the two front-runners were Bassirou Diomaye Faye (a close ally to Sonko) and Amadou Ba (the former Prime Minister and preferred candidate of Sall). Millions of Senegalese turned out to vote in this consequential election. Early on, polls believed that women and younger voters were going to be two major demographics in determining the next President. Faye, who’s PASTEF party had drawn much of its support from younger voters, saw youth turnout as useful to his campaigns. 

            Faye campaigned in the weeks leading up to the election (after being released from prison just before the campaigning period began) with the support of Ousmane Sonko. Most of his reforms are focused on monetary and fiscal stability. Most notably, he wishes to move away from the CFA franc, the currency of Senegal. The CFA franc is an African currency used in Central and West Africa that is backed by the French treasury. Given the current unemployment rates among youth with a rising cost of living, this reform resonated with the Senegalese public. Faye has also garnered large swaths of support from the rural community, where he grew up. He claims that he would be a politician that serves to disrupt the urban focus of the government.

            Ba’s campaign rested on the ideal of continuity. Ba, as a former member of Sall’s government, seeks to continue the legacy of Senegal for the past fourteen years. This includes greater “peace and prosperity,” as well as creating jobs. Ba also wants to attract foreign investments to the nation. 

To win the presidency, a candidate is required to win over 50% of the vote or else a run-off round will be held between the two top candidates.

Amadou Ba

           

 

Bassirou Diomaye Faye











The Results

Map of Results

As of Tuesday afternoon, most major candidates had called Bassirou Diomaye Faye to concede the election. With 90% of the vote officially reported, Faye had garnered over 53% of the votes. Ba, who is currently projected to be second, has only garnered 36% of the vote. Ba called Faye to concede the election early Tuesday. Monday evening, parties and celebrations erupted across Dakar as the preliminary results showed Faye with a wide gap over his opponents. 

            Celebrations across Dakar were vibrant and lively as citizens celebrated the strength of democracy. Faye will now serve as the youngest President in Africa, a testament to the rising presence of younger candidates around the world (like France’s Gabriel Attal). Faye’s election was not well-received by the international market, however. Senegal’s dollar value plunged to its lowest point in five months out of fear that Faye will pull out of the CFA Franc and establish a West-African centric currency. This fits with Faye’s pan-African focus, which he has promised to uphold throughout his presidency. In terms of national development, Faye has promised to promote national companies over international corporations. Even more, Faye seeks to disrupt the status-quo of the government and set Senegal up for a path to success internationally. 

            For the Senegalese people, there is an unmistaken unity around Faye’s election. Even opposition candidates have called his election a testament to Senegal’s strength and the power of democracy. Faye perhaps depicts this best. In the words of Alioune Tine, founder of a Senegalese think tank, Faye has gone “from prison to presidential palace [in] the only country in Africa capable of withstanding a disease to its democracy.”  


Outline of Senegal with Flag Inside























Written by

Kaleb Houle-Lawrence

University Intern

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