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Senegal votes in presidential election to replace Macky Sall

Published March 24, 2024last updated March 25, 2024

The incumbent Macky Sall is not competing in the race, after wrapping a second term. Sall's popularity has slumped after he unsuccessfully tried to postpone the vote to December.

Voters casting their ballots in Dakar, Senegal
Voters in Senegal lined up to cast their ballots during the Muslim holy month of RamadanImage: picture alliance/AP/Mosa'ab Elshamy

Voters in Senegal headed to the polls on Sunday to elect a new president after the conclusion of incumbent President Macky Sall's second term.

Sall is not competing in this race, which is taking place despite his unsuccessful attempts to postpone the vote until December. His ruling coalition has endorsed former prime minister Amadou Ba.

Meanwhile, popular opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, disqualified from the race due to a defamation conviction, is backing former tax inspector Bassirou Diomaye Faye.

Ousmane Sonko casting his ballot in Ziguinchor
Opposition leader Ousmane Sonko was disqualified from running and has backed anti-establishment candidate Bassirou Diomaye FayeImage: Muhamadou Bittaye/AFP

Faye said he was "convinced" of victory in the first round, after casting his ballot in his western village of Ndiaganiao.

"I remain confident about the choice for the change that I am able to embody better than any other candidate," he said alongside his two wives.

Should none of the 19 candidates running secure over 50% of the votes, a runoff round will be held.

On Sunday, Sall warned the candidates against claiming victory prematurely.

"It is neither up to a candidate, nor to a (political) camp to proclaim victory or results," the outgoing president said after casting his vote in Fatick.

"It is the polling stations that will speak," he added.

Faye's opponents concede defeat

Results are expected to be announced next week.

However, as votes were tallied Sunday, four of Faye's main opponents publicly conceded defeat, all congratulating him on his victory.

Widespread street celebrations among opposition supporters were seen in the capital, Dakar, after early tallies showed Faye had taken the lead.

The election ran smoothly with no major incidents reported. Polls closed around 1800 UTC.

Senegalese cast ballots in presidential election

Sall's shaken popularity

Sall's largely smooth tenure, stretching since 2012, has recently been muddied by his decision to delay the vote, due to take place last month.

He initially wanted to push the election to December, effectively extending his term.

However, the Senegalese Constitutional Council declared Sall's postponement of the election null and void and said arranging the vote for a date after his mandate expires on April 2 would be unconstitutional.

It forced him to reset the date to March 24, during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Sall's attempted postponement triggered deadly protests and street unrest, a recently recurring scene in a country often seen as a rare case of stable democracy in West Africa, where coups are common.

Senegal's voters focus on education, jobs, health care

The episode of violence, ongoing since 2021, has been mostly triggered by the standoff between the ruling administration and Sonko.

Sonko, who had long been seen as the main opponent of President Macky Sall, was sentenced to two years in prison last summer after a court found him guilty for "corrupting youth."

His sentencing triggered deadly clashes in Senegal, with supporters, often young people, taking to the streets across the country and facing off with security officers.

Sonko was released from jail last week ahead of the country's presidential contest.

zc, rmt/wd (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)