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HomeNewsOpposition candidate leads in Senegal presidential poll

Opposition candidate leads in Senegal presidential poll

Dakar — Senegal opposition candidate Bassirou Diomaye Faye was set to be declared the country’s next president after his rival from the governing coalition called him on Monday to concede defeat.

Results trickling in since polls closed on Sunday evening in the first round of a delayed presidential election rapidly suggested Faye, 44, may have clinched an outright majority. The trends announced on local media sparked street celebrations by his supporters in the capital Dakar.

Ruling coalition candidate Amadou Ba, 62, initially called these celebrations premature and said a run-off vote would be needed to determine the winner.

But he then called Faye on Monday to offer his congratulations, a government spokesperson told journalists.

“In light of presidential election result trends and while we await the official proclamation, I congratulate … Faye for his victory in the first round,” Ba said in a statement.

A peaceful transition of power in Senegal would mark a boost for democracy in West Africa, where there have been eight military coups since 2020.

Some of the juntas that seized power have cut ties with traditional power brokers in the region such as France and the US, and turned instead to Russia for help in their fight against a jihadist insurgency spreading through countries that neighbour Senegal.

Senegal’s international bonds rose on reports that Faye was close to being declared a winner, reversing sharp falls from earlier in the day.

Official results are expected to be announced by the Dakar appeals court on Friday. The electoral commission has not yet communicated on the tallies counted so far out of 15,633 voting stations.

Many hope the vote will bring stability and an economic boost to Senegal after three years of unprecedented political turbulence in one of West Africa’s only stable democracies, which is set to start producing oil and gas this year.

“I am happy to see there is a wind of change,” said Tall, who joined revellers during the night as supporters waved Senegalese flags, lit flares and blasted vuvuzelas. “It is wonderful because democracy has won. Many thought it would not happen,” he said, only wishing to give his first name.

Young voters

Several opposition contenders had also conceded defeat to Faye during the night, including Anta Babacar Ngom, the only woman running.

Ba was the candidate backed by outgoing President Macky Sall, who is stepping down amid a drop in popularity after two terms in office marred by economic hardship and violent antigovernment protests.

Faye has not publicly spoken since he cast his vote. He owes much of his success to the backing of firebrand opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, who was barred from running due to a defamation conviction.

The two former tax inspectors have campaigned together under the slogan “Diomaye is Sonko”, promising to fight corruption and prioritise national economic interests.

They are particularly popular among young voters in a country where more than 60% of people are under 25 and struggle to find jobs.

Police crackdowns on protests, the government’s failure to cushion rising living costs and concerns Sall would seek to extend his mandate beyond constitutional limits buoyed the opposition.

Anger crystallised around Sonko’s prosecution only grew when authorities sought to postpone the vote, initially scheduled to take place in February, by 10 months.

Investors are, meanwhile, wary about a potential change in leadership to an anti-establishment government that may not pursue the same business friendly policies seen under Sall’s government that has attracted investments into infrastructure.

Source: Reuters