Senegal is choosing a leader – will the young triumph over the old?

Mildred Europa Taylor February 24, 2019
Incumbent leader, Macky Sall (Left) is hopeful of getting re-elected while Ousmane Sonko (Right), the youngest candidate, is sure of attracting young voters, who are in the majority.

Millions of voters in Senegal are heading to the polls to elect a new president. Will the young triumph over the old as Senegal chooses a leader? With about 6.6 million registered voters, Senegal’s youth, which is a large majority, will likely determine the outcome of the vote, according to analysts.

The electoral commission set up about 15,000 voting stations across the country of 15 million people.

Candidates made promises to deal with some of the pressing issues in the country including corruption, unemployment, and poverty.

The incumbent leader, President Macky Sall, who is facing off against four other candidates, is hopeful of getting re-elected; basing this on his various infrastructure projects.

Since assuming office, Sall has overseen a lot of construction projects including highways, electricity, a half a billion-dollar international airport, and the futuristic city of Diamniadio.

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Macky Sall. Pic credit: Sen360

Furthermore, The 57-year-old also recently inaugurated the Senegambia bridge with his Gambian counterpart, Adama Barrow, in a move that is expected to enhance trade between both countries.

Another advantage for Sall in the race is that two of his major challengers barred from running because of corruption allegations, in moves critics said were politically motivated.

Moreso, The former mayor of Dakar, Khalifa Sall, is serving a five-year jail term for embezzling public funds.

Karim Wade, son of former President Abdoulaye Wade, has been exiled to Qatar after serving three years in prison on corruption charges.

In spite of the numerous infrastructure projects under Sall, more than one-third of Senegal’s 15 million population still live below the poverty line, according to the UN.

However, Corruption and unemployment have also been some of the hurdles for the incumbent administration, analysts say.

France, which is the country’s former colonial ruler still has an influence on Senegal – both culturally and economically – and this has been a major topic ahead of the polls.

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Ousmane Sonko is the youngest in the race. Pic credit: African Daily Voice

Ousmane Sonko, who appears to be the most serious challenge to Sall believes that commercial contracts awarded to French companies should be looked at again and renegotiated.

The 44-year-old is the youngest in the race and a newcomer to the political scene. With his strong campaign and social media following, as well as, his relative youth, Sonko has attracted Senegal’s youth, which is more than 60 percent of the population.

“He is very powerful among young people between 18 and 35 who are going to be voting for the first time,” political analyst, Abdou Lo told CNN.

“He is the best on social media with hundreds of volunteers who are very active on Facebook and Twitter.”

The tax inspector made headlines in 2016 when he became a whistleblower, condemning corrupt practices in the Senegalese elite.

He was sacked over the activism but was later elected as a lawmaker in 2017, representing his own party: the Patriots of Senegal for Work, Ethics and Fraternity (PASTEF), according to the VOA.

Sonko’s popularity among the youth is also largely due to his promise to drop the country’s existing currency, CFA and replace it with a domestic currency if elected.

Moreover, The CFA franc is used in Senegal, alongside seven other Francophone countries in West Africa, since the end of the colonial era.

Pegged to the euro, the countries that use the CFA franc are forced to keep at least 50 per cent of their foreign exchange reserves in an account at the French Central Bank.

“Sonko proposes a gradual, prudent and responsible exit from the franc CFA monetary system that is holding our economies hostage,” said Mamadou Yauck, a Pastef Partie activist and deputy head of IT for the Sonko campaign.

Sonko has 15 per cent support, according to a November survey, however, his supporters are optimistic of winning.

“We believe that our message has drawn a big and strong support across the country,” said Yauck. “That enthusiasm will pay Sunday night.”

Furthermore, Three other candidates are also hoping to grab the top position besides Sall and Sonko. Iddrisa Seck, 59, served as Wade’s prime minister in the 2000s.

He since made bids for the presidency in 2007 and 2012 but has not been successful.

Issa Sall, a 63-year-old IT professor representing the Party of Unity and Assembly (PUR) launched his political career in the late 1990s.

His party is affiliated with the Moustarchidine religious movement, part of a leading Sufi brotherhood in Senegal.

Sall, who is also a founder of a private university in Dakar, has strong support from the Moustarchidine religious movement.

Madicke Niang, 65, is the oldest contestant in the race and is seen as having the least chance of winning the presidency. Niang was a loyal supporter of former president Wade and served as a minister in his government for many years.

Senegal’s next president will serve only five years in office, down from the seven-year terms served by former presidents, following constitutional reforms in 2016.

The reforms also limit presidents to two terms in office.

Candidates need more than 50 percent of the vote for a first-round victory.

The contest will head to a run-off between the two leading candidates if no one secures the 50 percent vote in the first round.

Last Edited by:Victor Ativie Updated: March 19, 2020


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