We now have a clearer picture of the trajectory of Senegal’s presidential elections than we did last week. Yesterday, Senegal’s constitutional court confirmed that the country will hold a run-off election on March 25. The court also issued official results from the first round, held on February 26, that have incumbent President Abdoulaye Wade as the top finisher, with 34.81%, and the Mayor of Fatick (and former Prime Minister) Macky Sall with 26.58%. These two will face off in the second round. The court also rejected two requests by Wade (French), one that sought to disqualify certain votes and another that sought to re-introduce some other results that lower bodies had disqualified.
Wade certainly looks to be in trouble. As AFP writes, “There were 11 other runners-up, almost all of whom have already endorsed Sall.” Leaders of M23, a key organization in mobilizing youth protests over the past months, have also indicated their support for Sall – and especially for ousting Wade. Sall has also received the support of Youssou Ndour, a popular singer who was barred from running in the first round. Finally, there has been at least one prominent defection from Wade’s camp to Sall’s.
If one assumes for the sake of argument that a candidate’s endorsement of Sall means Sall will add that candidate’s tally to his column in the second round, Sall’s numbers are much stronger than Wade’s. According to one table I found,* third place finisher Moustapha Niasse scored 13%, fourth place finisher Ousmane Tanor Dieng scored 11%, and fifth place finisher Idrissa Seck scored 8%. All of these candidates have endorsed Sall. Their respective percentages, together with Sall’s, add up to approximately 59%.
As Sall’s chances of taking the presidency increase, so does interest in what kind of president he will be. Many analyses are focusing on Sall’s past links to Wade (Sall served as prime minister during the latter half of Wade’s first term), and suggesting that the substance of Sall’s style of governing will not necessarily differ from Wade’s. I’m not sure we know enough to say. Sall has still given only the broad outlines of what he intends to do if elected. For those who read French, you can take a look at his platform here, which focuses (unsurprisingly) on themes like democracy, infrastructural development, and education. In his campaign statements Sall often emphasizes his aim of reforming the institution of the presidency, perhaps by reducing term lengths and increasing transparency.
Even for those who don’t read French, you can gain a sense of Sall’s campaign by watching the video on his website. The video emphasizes the national scope of Sall’s campaign, with as many shots of cheering crowds as of the man himself, and presents him as a vigorous, youthful, heroic leader – this too is unsurprising, but the visual focus on Senegal and its people, rather than strictly on Sall, effectively transmits a sense that Senegal is eager for a new leader. Given the protests that preceded these elections, that’s a timely message.
Does Wade have any chance? VOA says he does:
Analysts said Mr. Wade’s camp could undercut high-level party alliances and win over opposition leaders at the local and regional levels, as well as secure the backing of influential Muslim religious leaders.
Official campaigning begins Thursday, and the race is far from over.
*The article is about Wade’s victory in Touba and other strongholds of the Mouridiyya brotherhood, but the chart shows national results.