Senegalese President Macky Sall’s ruling party and the opposition both claimed victory after legislative elections on Sunday, while awaiting the release of official results.
Former Prime Minister Aminata Toure, who led the ruling coalition’s list in the legislative election announced partial results on national television early on Monday, saying the party had won 30 out of Senegal’s 46 administrative departments.
“This gives us an unquestionable majority,” Toure said from party headquarters to the cheers of supporters. She did not say how many of the 165 parliamentary seats the party won.
An opposition coalition known as Wallu Senegal said in a statement later on Monday that along with an allied coalition, Yewwi Askane Wi, it had defeated the ruling party in most departments.
“The provisional results from the legislative elections show that President Macky Sall lost the elections … and that he will not have a majority in the National Assembly,” it said.
The political backdrop in the country of 17.5 million, considered among West Africa’s most stable democracies, has become increasingly acrimonious, fuelled in part by Sall’s refusal to rule out breaching term limits by running for a third term.
Violent protests erupted last year after Sall’s main opponent, Ousmane Sonko, was arrested on rape charges which he denies and says were politically motivated.
Violent protests broke out again last month after the Yewwi Askane Wi coalition’s primary list of parliamentary candidates, which included Sonko, was disqualified on technical grounds.
Under Senegal’s hybrid electoral system 97 candidates who win a majority of votes in administrative departments are elected, while 53 from national lists are elected using proportional representation, and 15 are elected by Senegalese living outside the country.
Barthelemy Dias, mayor of the capital Dakar and an opposition leader, immediately disputed the results announced by Toure, warning that it was not her place to announce results.
“The people will respond, and the people will come out into the streets tomorrow, and you will tell us where you got your majority,” Dias said.
THIRD TERM AMBITION?
Sall’s ruling Benno Bokk Yakaar coalition is trying to conserve its majority of more than three-quarters of the parliament’s 165 seats.
“I’m confident that like in the past, voters will decide in all transparency,” Sall said after voting.
Sall, 60, swept to power in 2012 after removing Abdoulaye Wade, the president from 2000. Sall was elected again in 2019. He has campaigned on big-ticket construction projects such as a high-speed train line and a conference centre, as well as oil and gas production.
His opponents have seized on growing frustrations with economic hardship caused by the coronavirus pandemic and rising fuel and food prices.
Sall’s refusal to publicly rule out a candidacy in 2024 has stoked fears he will follow in the footsteps of Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara and former Guinea President Alpha Conde. Both men stood for – and won – third terms in 2020 by arguing that new constitutions had reset their two-term limits.
Senegal adopted constitutional revisions, which among other things reduced presidential terms from seven to five years, in 2016. Sall has declined to comment on his intentions for 2024.