Senegal’s Sall in sweeping election victory

March 1, 2019 1:14 pm
Macky Sall, seen here at an election rally near the northern town of Saint Louis, is returning for a second term in office © AFP / SEYLLOU

, Dakar, Senegal, Mar 1 – Macky Sall has been re-elected president of Senegal for a second term, according to provisional results published on Thursday.

Figures released by the National Vote Counting Commission (CNRV) showed Sall won Sunday’s first round outright, picking up 58.27 percent of the vote.

Opposition candidates said they rejected the result, but would not contest it.

His nearest rival, former prime minister Idrissa Seck, who was making his third tilt at the presidency, took 20.50 percent.

Turnout was 66.24 percent, the CNRV’s chairman, Demba Kandji, said.

A candidate must garner more than 50 percent of the votes cast to prevent a second-round runoff.

The provisional results must be approved by the Constitutional Council.

The other candidates were taxman-turned MP legislator Ousmane Sonko, who won 15.67 percent of the vote; Issa Sall, who is head of a private university, with 4.07 percent; and former minister Madicke Niang, on 1.48 percent. Issa Sall and Macky Sall are not related.

– Stable and prosperous –

Senegal is often held up as a model of stability in Africa and has enjoyed strong economic growth.

The Muslim-majority country has largely escaped the jihadist attacks that have destabilised neighbours such as Mali.

It has known two peaceful power transfers, in 2000 and 2012, and has never experienced a coup.

But election campaigns are typically stained by charges of corruption, disinformation and bouts of violence.

On February 11, two people were killed in clashes between supporters of Macky Sall and Issa Sall in the eastern city of Tambacounda. Police made 24 arrests.

Sonko’s party late Wednesday attacked what it called “irregularities” in the vote.

All four losing candidates conferred on Thursday at Seck’s home before issuing a statement condemning the outcome but confirming they would not oppose it.

“We firmly and unreservedly reject this result. We will not appeal to the Constitutional Council,” it said.

Elena Valenciano, head of a European Union election observer group, said Tuesday that the election was “calm and transparent”.

But, she said, it took place “in a climate characterised by a lack of trust and blocked dialogue between the opposition and the majority”.

A geologist by training, 56-year-old Sall took over as president in 2012 after beating his former mentor Abdoulaye Wade.

He campaign for a second term was based on his “Emerging Senegal” infrastructure project to spur economic growth.

The ambitious scheme has entailed building a new airport, train line and motorway for Dakar, and constructing a new town, Diamniadio, 32 kilometres (20 miles) outside the capital.

Sall came under fire after parliament last year approved a law requring presidential candidates to show they were supported by a minimum number of citizens and regions.

Factfile on Senegal © AFP / Sophie RAMIS

Once the regulations went into force, only seven candidates made the cut.

Two of them — popular Dakar mayor Khalifa Sall and Karim Wade, the powerful son of President Sall’s predecessor, were then disqualified over convictions for misuse of public funds, which they say were engineered to bar them from the race.

As a result, neither the Socialist Party nor the Senegalese Democratic Party — which have dominated the country’s political landscape since independence — fielded presidential candidates.

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