Senegal held its two-round presidential election in January and March of this year, leading to the inauguration of a new president, Macky Sall. Yesterday, legislative elections appeared to give a massive triumph to Sall’s coalition. Turnout and enthusiasm were reportedly low. Yet the extent of Sall’s apparent victory will likely solidify his mandate and give him even greater leverage to pursue major items on his agenda, including a corruption probe into the previous administration, that of President Abdoulaye Wade.
Senegal’s National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, has 150 seats. As Wikipedia explains, “Ninety deputies are elected in 35 single and multi-member districts (departments) by simple majority (plurality) party block vote (PBV, winning party list takes all seats in the district). The remaining 60 seats are filled proportionally based on the national distribution of votes.” As of last night, various outlets were projecting a major Sall victory. The most specific tally I saw came from Dakar-based Twitter user Abdul Tejan-Cole, who wrote that Sall’s Benoo Bok Yaakaar* coalition had won 111-115 seats to a mere 16 for Wade’s Parti Democratique Senegalais.
Muslim leaders, who competed on that basis for the first time in a Senegalese election, also took a few seats. Those who read French can find more on these leaders and their parties here – several of these sheikhs have participated in one form or another in Senegalese politics for well over a decade.
Reuters says, “Complete provisional results are expected by Tuesday.” Seneweb (French) is keeping a liveblog of the elections here. The Agence de Presse Senegalaise (French) is also tallying and reporting on results. I will try to update this post when confirmed results appear.
What do you think? Do reports of low turnout and low enthusiasm mean this isn’t that big of a win for Sall? Or is it a major triumph? Is Wade’s PDS a spent force? Or is it only natural that they would lose legislative elections only three months after losing the presidential?
*This source translates the name as “Rally of the Forces of Change.”
[UPDATE:] AFP on unofficial results compiled by local media and government sources:
Figures compiled by local media, including the Senegalese Press Agency (APS) showed President Macky Sall’s coalition ‘Benno Bokk Yaakkar” (United for One Hope in the Wolof language)** had won 100 of the 150 seats up for grabs.
A source close to the interior minister and election commission said initial figures showed participation was around 37 percent. However this is still higher than in 2007 polls when only 34.7 percent of Senegalese voters cast a ballot.
In 2007, there was an opposition boycott during the legislative elections, so there would have been major cause for concern if 2012 turnout failed to beat 2007 turnout.
Is there an absolute number below which turnout becomes “low”? I am tempted to put it at 50% – which means, of course, that at least one presidential election in the post-World War II US (1996) was edging into “low turnout” territory, and turnout for many mid-term elections was well below the 50% mark as well.
**Note that AFP gives a different translation than the other source.
[UPDATE 2]: A new provisional count gives 119 to Sall’s coalition, 12 seats to PDS, 19 seats to others, and puts turnout at 36.7%.