Senegal’s Historic Election: Unprecedented Competition, Uncertain Future!

Senegalese citizens are gearing up for a closely contested presidential this Sunday, amidst months of unrest that have challenged democracy in one of West Africa's most stable nations.

Presidential candidate Amadou Ba
(Image source: Twitter)

The election follows a period of uncertainty, initiated by President Macky Sall's failed attempt to postpone the February 25th until the end of the year, and subsequent surprise amnesty for political prisoners. The recent release of two prominent opposition figures from prison was met with widespread celebration.

This upcoming election marks Senegal's fourth democratic transition of power since gaining independence from France in 1960. It's significant as it's the first election without an incumbent since term limits were introduced, with no clear frontrunner among the 19 candidates, including one female candidate.

According to analysts, the election is expected to be the most competitive since the introduction of multiparty politics in Senegal.

It's anticipated that no candidate will secure more than 50% of the vote, making a runoff between the leading candidates highly likely. These candidates include Amadou Ba, a former prime minister, and Bassirou Diomaye Faye, supported by popular opposition figure Ousmane Sonko.

Sonko, finished third in the previous election, was disqualified from running in January due to a prior defamation conviction. His supporters claim that he has faced various legal challenges in recent years as part of efforts to obstruct his candidacy.

Other potential frontrunners include Khalifa Sall, a former mayor of Dakar unrelated to the president, and Idrissa Seck, a former prime minister who was the runner-up in the 2019 presidential race.

This week, two candidates withdrew from the race to support Faye, indicating the beginning of coalition-building that could influence the election outcome.

Economic concerns are paramount for many Senegalese voters, with high food and energy prices, partly fueled by the conflict in , impacting the economy. Youth unemployment is widespread, prompting many to seek opportunities abroad.

“Jobs are really the priority. Everyone can see that unemployment is taking over,” said Oumy Sarr, a political activist. “The second priority is the high cost of living in Senegal today. What is to be done to improve people's living conditions? Inflation is rising, everyone is tired.”

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