Senegalese voters go to the polls in delayed presidential election

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Senegal goes to the polls on Sunday to vote for its fifth president in a delayed election being held against a turbulent political backdrop which has triggered violent anti-government protests and boosted support for the opposition.

At stake is the potential end of a regime that has sustained investor-friendly policies in the soon-to-become oil and gas producer, but which has failed to alleviate economic hardship and stirred unrest in one of coup-prone West Africa’s most stable democracies.

Nineteen contenders are vying to replace President Macky Sall, who is stepping down after a second term marred by violent unrest over the prosecution of firebrand opposition leader Ousmane Sonko and concerns that Sall wanted to extend his mandate past the constitutional limit.

The incumbent is not on the ballot for the first time in Senegal’s history. His ruling coalition has picked former prime minister Amadou Ba, 62, as its candidate.

“I believe that I’m the candidate that offers political stability, serenity, and the capacity to move Senegal forward rapidly,” Ba told journalists as campaigning closed on Friday. “Senegal does not need a complete overhaul.”

Senegal heading to the polls:

Around 7.3 million people are registered to vote, with polls opening at 0800 GMT and closing at 1800 GMT. Vote counting will start immediately after polls close and provisional results are expected by March 26.

Sonko, who was disqualified from the race due to a defamation conviction, is backing former tax inspector Bassirou Diomaye Faye, 43, co-creator of the now dissolved Pastef party. Some high-profile politicians and opposition candidates have also backed Faye’s candidacy.

Other contenders include ex-Dakar mayor Khalifa Sall (no relation to the outgoing president), entrepreneur-turned-politician Anta Babacar Ngom, who is the only woman running, and veteran politician Idrissa Seck, who came second in the 2019 presidential election.