Senegal’s presidential election: A look at the four main candidates

After a political crisis with many twists and turns, Senegalese voters go to the polls on Sunday to choose their new president. Seventeen contenders are hoping to succeed President Macky Sall. FRANCE 24 examines the political backgrounds and main proposals of  four candidates: Amadou Ba, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, Idrissa Seck and Khalifa Sall.

Issued on:

5 min

A fast-paced electoral campaign is coming to an end for 17 Senegalese presidential candidates. Over just two weeks, they have been striving to convince voters to support them at the polls on Sunday.

This extraordinary campaign was cut short by the political crisis that began on February 3, when Sall cancelled the election that had been scheduled for February 25. Senegalese lawmakers voted to postpone the vote to December 15, but the Constitutional Council voided the cancellation and the postponement and forced Sall to set a new date. 

Read moreHow Senegal’s presidential election was postponed, reinstated and moved up

Sall is nearing the end of two terms (2012-2024) at the head of one of West Africa’s most stable countries. The constitution doesn’t allow him to run for a third mandate.

On March 9, two days after the council confirmed the March 24 vote, Senegal’s presidential candidates launched their campaigns. The 17 hopefuls have increased their trips and public meetings over the last few days to boost visibility and present their ideas on issues including sovereignty, civil liberties, emigration, schools, unemployment and a fishing industry crisis.

Here’s a look at the four main candidates’ key proposals:

  • Amadou Ba, the continuity candidate

Senegalese Prime Minister Amadou Ba speaks in Dakar on December 21, 2023. © Seyllou, AFP

Prime Minister Amadou Ba, 62, is a ruling party candidate and Sall’s preferred successor. The former minister of economy and finance and then foreign affairs, Ba presents himself as a candidate for stability and the continuity of the incumbent’s economic record, while also promising a return to calm after months of political crisis.

Ba focused his campaign programme on youth employment in a country where three-quarters of the population is under 35. His key promise: to create 1 million jobs by 2028 through public/private partnerships and investment in agriculture, industry, infrastructure and renewable energies.

He also calls for updating “conventions and contracts signed by the state of Senegal in the field of natural resources”, providing a minimum financial allowance to the elderly and accelerating the construction of a national school of cultural arts and crafts.

  • Bassirou Diomaye Faye, the anti-system candidate
Senegalese presidential candidate Bassirou Diomaye Faye gestures during a press conference in Dakar on March 15, 2024.
Senegalese presidential candidate Bassirou Diomaye Faye gestures during a press conference in Dakar on March 15, 2024. © John Wessels, AFP

Bassirou Diomaye Faye, 44, a replacement for opposition leader Ousmane Sonko who was excluded from the presidential race in January, has had even less time than other candidates to campaign in person. The cofounder of the opposition Pastef party, who was released from prison along with Sonko on March 14, is campaigning against the country’s political class and promises to reclaim Senegal’s “sovereignty”, a term used 18 times in his electoral platform.

To this end, Faye proposes getting rid of the CFA franc inherited from the colonial era to introduce a new currency, and to make the teaching of  English widespread in a country where the official language is French. He also says he wants to renegotiate mining and hydrocarbon contracts as well as defence agreements.

The Pastef platform also aims for institutional reform with the creation of the role of vice president and safeguards to check the power of the president, including potential removal from office.

  • Idrissa Seck, the veteran candidate
Idrissa Seck, founder of the Rewmi party, is seen during an opposition press conference in Dakar on January 15, 2019. Seck was also a candidate in Senegal’s 2019 presidential election.
Idrissa Seck, founder of the Rewmi party, is seen during an opposition press conference in Dakar on January 15, 2019. Seck was also a candidate in Senegal’s 2019 presidential election. © Seyllou, AFP

Former prime minister Idrissa Seck, who served under ex-president Abdoulaye Wade between 2002 and 2004, is running in a fourth consecutive presidential race. The 64-year-old former Sall opponent, who long maintained the suspense surrounding his eventual candidacy, has put his political experience and knowledge of the inner workings of government to use in his bid to win over voters.

Among his signature proposals are compulsory military service, the creation of a common currency for West African countries and a fund financed by oil and gas companies to compensate for damage to the fishing industry. 

The founder of Senegal’s Rewmi party also proposes to devote 60 percent of public investment to areas outside the Dakar region.

  • Khalifa Sall, the comeback candidate
Presidential candidate Khalifa Sall greets supporters during a tour of several areas in Senegal’s capital Dakar on March 9, 2024.
Presidential candidate Khalifa Sall greets supporters during a tour of several areas in Senegal’s capital Dakar on March 9, 2024. © Seyllou, AFP

Khalifa Sall (no relation to the outgoing president) is another Senegalese political heavyweight trying his luck in the race. Sentenced to five years in prison and a fine of 5 million CFA francs for fraud and embezzlement of public funds in 2018, the leader of the Taxawu Senegal coalition was barred from entering the 2019 presidential contest. Macky Sall’s rival has since returned to politics thanks to a presidential pardon and a law authorising the restoration of civil rights for convicted people who were amnestied following a national dialogue initiated by the government in May 2023.

In this election, the 68-year-old Sall is presenting himself as the candidate to heal a “damaged” country. The man who sees himself as the heir to Senegal’s socialist party promises to institute a citizen-initiated referendum. He also pledges to devote at least 1,000 billion CFA francs (1.5 billion euros) of the annual national budget to agriculture.

Sall’s foreign policy programme aims to “diversify and rebalance” diplomatic and economic partnerships by “strengthening (global) south-south cooperation and cooperation with emerging countries”.

This article is a translation of the original in French.


The 17 candidates in Senegal’s presidential election

Anta Babacar Ngom

Amadou Ba

Boubacar Camara

Déthié Fall

Daouda Ndiaye

Khalifa Sall

Idrissa Seck

Mame Boye Diao

Mouhamed Boun Abdallah Dionne

Aliou Mamadou Dia

Malick Gackou

Aly Ngouille Ndiaye

Mamadou Lamine Diallo

Serigne Mboup

Pape Djibril Fall

Bassirou Diomaye Faye

Thierno Allassane Sall

Source link

#Senegals #presidential #election #main #candidates

Why is ECOWAS hesitant over military intervention in Niger

The West Africans blocs’ deadline for military intervention in Niger lapsed on Sunday and while ECOWAS has signaled they will pursue diplomatic solutions, military action remains on the table. Asides from the potential catastrophic loss of life, there are practical, political, strategic and legal reasons why an intervention is potentially unfeasible to accomplish.

Issued on:

4 min

After being unanimously elected as chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in July, Nigerian President Bola Tinubu declared the organisation must promote democracy in a region plagued by coups over the past decade. “We must not be toothless bulldogs,” Tinubu said, “We must stand firm on democracy … Democracy is very difficult to manage but it is the best form of government.”

In less than a month in the top ECOWAS seat, Tinubu is facing his first major test. After the coup in Niger on July 26, ECOWAS gave the perpetrating junta an ultimatum to free President Mohamed Bazoum and reestablish order or face a full military intervention.

As the deadline came and went Sunday evening, the junta reaffirmed their and closed Niger’s airspace – indicating that they are taking their neighbours’ threats seriously.

F24 analyse Niger


Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal have endorsed the Nigeria-led plan to intervene in Niger but political support among ECOWAS members is far from uniform. Benin for instance, has said it will not send troops.

Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal have endorsed Nigeria’s plan to militarily intervene in Niger but political support among ECOWAS members is not universal. Benin for instance, has said that it will not send troops.

More problematic says Ezenwa Olumba, a specialist in West African sub-region at the UK’s Royal Holloway University, are the governments in Burkina Faso, Mali, Guinea who are actively undermining ECOWAS plans.

These military governments – who themselves got into power via coups and are suspended from ECOWAS – said they consider any intervention by ECOWAS, a “declaration of war” and have signalled they will throw their support behind Niger.

Coup leader closes airspace

‘Miscalculation from Tinubu’

Olumba says this has all been a major miscalculation by Tinubu. “[Tinubu] rushed to give an ultimatum to the military leaders in Niger without even talking to Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso … he didn’t know they would support Niger,” says Olumba, “Essentially, Nigeria would be at war with Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Guinea.”

This, and other considerations, have spurred non-ECOWAS regional players Algeria and Chad to strongly condemn Nigeria’s idea, saying any military action risks escalating into a broader regional conflict. Algeria’s President Abdelmadjid Tebboune told state television it would be “a direct threat” to his country that shares a 1000-kilometre border with Niger.

Even within Nigeria, ECOWAS’s military powerhouse and the driving force behind a possible intervention in Niger, there are dissenting voices. On Friday evening, the largest opposition coalition railed against what they say is a “not only pointless but irresponsible” military action.

“For several days now, politicians have been calling on ECOWAS to give priority to negotiation. Despite a majority, President Tinubu knows that he will have his work cut out to obtain Senate approval to commit Nigerian soldiers”, reported Moïse Gomis, FRANCE 24’s correspondent in Abuja.

Politicians in the north of Nigeria have drawn attention to the military’s ongoing conflict with escalating jihadist violence in the region, casting doubt over whether the country can afford to tackle Niger militarily.

Regional tension


Though if this problem besets Nigeria, it is far more of a problem for Niger’s allies Mali and Burkina Faso, Dominique Trinquand, stated the former head of France’s military mission to the UN. “Mali and Burkina Faso, have a lot to do with jihadists in their own countries, they will not have enough forces to sacrifice for a conflict in Niger … the military advantage rests with ECOWAS” Trinquand told FRANCE 24

If Tinubu does manage to muster the necessary political will to intervene in Niger, Russia – which has endorsed the coup – and its veto power on the UN security council leave little hope West African countries would attain a legal mandate to follow through on its policy. This would set a new precedent as it was not the case in 2017 when ECOWAS entered the Gambia to facilitate the peaceful transfer of power. 

ECOWAS announced Monday it will reconvene Thursday to map out its next steps. For the time being, the bloc’s leader Nigeria seems blocked into a non-military solution. 


“The primary objective is to hope that the sanctions and other target measures result in the military restoring constitutional rule and therefore not needing a military intervention,” says  Dr Vines, Director of the Africa Programme Chatham House. “I think we shouldn’t expect a military intervention immediately.”

Though one wildcard is Tinubu himself. After investing a lot of political capital into resolving the situation and threatening an intervention, backing down now could result in a loss of credibility that may be hard to stomach for the new leader of Nigeria and ECOWAS.

“Tinubu is someone who doesn’t want to lose face, he’s a diehard. He’s someone who wants to realise what he says … he will not want to back down,” says Ezenwa Olumba.

Source link

#ECOWAS #hesitant #military #intervention #Niger

Can Nigeria’s Peter Obi ride his newfound momentum all the way to presidency?

The rise of Peter Obi in the campaign for Nigeria’s presidential election on February 25 has shaken up the country’s politics, hitherto dominated by two major parties since the end of military rule in 1999. But analysts say that Obi still faces an uphill struggle.

Promising a different way of doing things, Obi hopes to defeat the two favourites and political heavyweights from traditional parties: Atiku Aboubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

With speeches hailed as fresh and unifying – but criticised as populist by his detractors – the 61-year-old businessman has caught the attention of Nigeria’s young population, 60 percent of whom are under the age of 25.

“The current government is in a bad situation, and the way many young people see it is that people like Abubakar and Tinubu are part of the problem,” said Dele Babalola, a Nigeria expert at Canterbury Christ Church University in Kent. “Obe is 61 but he’s the youngest of the candidates [the other two being in their 70s] and a fresh face.”


Over the course of the five-month presidential campaign, Obi has gone from minor curiosity to credible candidate, with vast social media support amongst Nigeria’s youth turbocharging his standing. Obi has also enjoyed endorsements from prominent Nigerian figures such as ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo and renowned novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

As Nigeria endures an economic slump and a troubled security situation, Obi’s supporters (nicknamed “Obidients”) see him as an antidote to a political class they accuse of corruption and bad governance.

In this context, Obi has cultivated an image as the picture of integrity and prudence. “I have two children, they are graduates, they have never participated in any public life. I have a son that is going to be 29, 30 soon, he doesn’t own a car because he has to buy his own car, not me,” Obi said in a speech last year to his supporters’ applause.

Obi’s candidacy first emerged in October 2020 as Nigeria saw the #EndSARS protest movement – in which young demonstrators demanded the disbandment of the SARS police unit they accused of violence and saw as benefitting from total immunity, a movement Obi largely supported. 

The #EndSARS movement then took its demands further, denouncing corruption and economic inequality. These are burning issues in a country where oil revenues lavishly reward a small proportion of Nigerians while nearly half of the population live below the poverty line, according to the World Bank. 

A Nigerian Macron?

Born to Christian parents from the Igbo ethnic group – Nigeria’s third-largest – Obi’s background is a common one in the country’s economic elite: studies in Lagos, at Harvard and at the London School of Economics, followed by a business career including management roles in several Nigerian banks. 

As an ex-banker who wants to smash through the old two-party system and reinvigorate his country with a technocratic style of politics, Obi has prompted comparisons to French President Emmanuel Macron – who described himself as “neither left nor right”, created his own political party and swept aside the traditional vehicles of social democracy and conservatism when he took the Élysée Palace and then won a crushing parliamentary majority in 2017. 

Obi became leader of Nigeria’s Labour Party last year. Unlike the established British party bearing the same name, it is a rather marginal party – without much political machinery nationally, nor governors with power bases in Nigeria’s provinces. 

But “likening Obi to Macron is a mistake”, said Ladipo Adamolekun, a Nigerian public administration expert and Francophile. “Macron created his En Marche! party when France’s traditional parties were already in decline – it’s not like that for Obi.” 

And unlike Macron – whose sole political experience when he ran for the Élysée was a short stint as François Hollande’s economy minister – Obi is very far from a political neophyte. 

Obi was governor of Anambra, a southern Nigerian state, from 2006 to 2014, before standing as the PDP’s vice-presidential candidate at the last presidential elections in 2019. He has changed his political allegiance four times since 2022, leading to accusations of opportunism. 

Obi’s critics also question his probity, since he was mentioned in the Pandora Papers in 2021. However, his supporters say he has proven his integrity with effective governance of Anambra during his eight-year tenure there, which ended with huge savings in the state’s coffers – a compelling argument in an economy burdened by heavy public debt. 

Igbo vote ‘won’t be enough’

But for all the hype surrounding Obi, many analysts doubt he can pull off a victory – even despite strong polling figures.

“In reality, a lot of the young people who’ve created all that social media buzz live abroad and can’t vote in Nigeria,” Babalola said. “As for polls, the numbers aren’t as reliable in Africa as they are in Europe,” he added.

Then there is the classic phenomenon of young voters’ poor turnout – which may well be amplified in Nigeria, which tends to have low turnout overall, with just 33 percent going to the polls in the 2019 presidential elections. 

Finally, analysts doubt Obi can transcend the issues of ethnicity, religion and regional identity, all of which tend to be crucial factors in Nigerian voters’ choices. “The Igbo vote won’t be enough for Obi to win,” Babalola emphasised, while highlighting the importance of winning votes in the predominantly Muslim north. 

Whoever wins at the ballot box, they will face colossal challenges. Nigeria’s economy is Africa’s largest but is troubled by inflation running at more than 20 percent, fuel shortages, a lack of cash during the ill-timed introduction of new bank notes, and an energy crisis causing frequent blackouts. 

Public finances are in a bad shape, with debt servicing consuming 41 percent of public spending in 2022. The country’s sovereign ratings downgrade by Moody’s at the end of January is unlikely to help matters. 

“As things stand, I doubt the new president will be able to put in place good governance,” said Adamolekun – who favours a “more decentralised federal system” to replace the current political structures. 

“The new president will have to accept that the current political system isn’t conducive to the effective governance,” Adamolekun said. “The 1999 constitution was too centralising, especially when it came to the police, and that is a big factor in Nigeria’s security problems.” 

Indeed, President Muhammadu Buhari’s last term was plagued by a marked deterioration in Nigeria’s security situation, fuelled by inter-ethnic conflicts, criminal gang activity and jihadism. According to the UN, jihadist violence has killed more than 40,000 people and displaced some 2.2 million in northeastern Nigeria since 2009.  

So regardless of whether Obi pulls off an almighty political upset, the new Nigerian president will find plenty of challenges waiting in their inbox. 

This article was translated from the original in French.

Source link

#Nigerias #Peter #Obi #ride #newfound #momentum #presidency

Francophone countries meet for summit in Tunisia amid democracy concerns

Issued on:

The world’s club of French-speaking countries will meet in Tunisia from Saturday for talks focused on economic cooperation, more than a year after President Kais Saied began an internationally criticised power grab.

Around 30 heads of state and government, including French President Emmanuel Macron, his Senegalese counterpart Macky Sall and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, are set to attend the summit of the International Organisation of Francophonie (OIF) on the southern Tunisian resort island of Djerba.

While the two-day summit and an associated economic forum will officially focus on digital technology’s role in development, it will also be an opportunity for Western and African leaders to discuss issues like Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Many African countries have decried what they see as a lack of international solidarity in the face of crises on their continent, in sharp contrast with European nations’ swift support of Kyiv.

The summit coincides with the final stage of UN climate talks in Egypt, and comes just days after G20 leaders met in Indonesia for a meeting dominated by the war in Ukraine, which is an OIF observer state.

Normally held every two years, the meeting was postponed in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and then last year after Saied sacked the government and suspended parliament, later dissolving the legislature entirely.

Hosting the summit is a “success” for Saied, said French political researcher Vincent Geisser.

It will see him “leave his isolation — at least temporarily”, Geisser told AFP, after Canada, France and other developed nations last year called on Saied to restore “constitutional order”.

Economic cooperation

The summit will belatedly celebrate the 50th anniversary of the now 88-strong group whose members, such as Armenia and Serbia, are not all French-speaking.

The world’s French-speaking community is around 321 million-strong, and is expected to more than double to 750 million in 2050.

Secretary general Louise Mushikiwabo, of Rwanda, who is up for re-election, said the bloc is “more pertinent than ever” and able to bring added value to “most of the world’s problems”.

She told AFP she would ask member states to “redouble their efforts” in the face of a decline in the use of the French language in international organisations, and recalled that promoting “peace, democracy and human rights” is also part of the OIF’s mission.

Senegalese civil society figure Alioune Tine instead criticised the OIF’s record on international crisis mediation.

The group has shown itself to be “totally powerless in the face of fraudulent elections, third mandates (of African leaders) and military coups” in Mali, Guinea, Chad and Burkina Faso, he said.

Summit coordinator Mohamed Trabelsi told AFP the meeting was “a recognition of the role of Tunisia in the Francophone space, and of its regional and international diplomacy”.

It is also an opportunity to “strengthen economic cooperation”, Trabelsi said.

But an official from OIF heavyweight Canada said Ottawa wanted to echo “concern” over “democratic participation” following Saied’s power grab in the only democracy to have emerged from the Arab Spring uprisings more than a decade ago.

Tunisia is confronted by a deep economic crisis which has pushed a growing number of its people to try to reach Europe.

Seeking to draw delegates’ attention to the issue, hundreds of protesters tried Friday to highlight the disappearance of 18 Tunisians onboard a boat that set out in September. Police prevented them from reaching Djerba.


Source link