Senegal’s legislative election tests ruling party’s influence

Senegal was holding a legislative election on Sunday, a crucial test for opposition parties who are trying to reduce the ruling party’s influence ahead of the 2024 presidential election, amid fears that President Mackie Sall will be in third place. Can seek tenure.

Nearly seven million voters are eligible to elect 165 representatives to the National Assembly amid a politically tense atmosphere in the West African nation.

Violent protests erupted last year after Sal’s main rival, Osman Sonko, was arrested on rape charges and killed more than a dozen people.

Mr Sonko, who came third in the 2019 election, denies the allegations and his supporters have been vocal about their opposition to the president.

This year, he and another of Mr. Sail’s major opponents were disqualified as candidates, leading to more widespread anger and protests, which killed three people in June.

Senegal, with a population of 17 million, is known for stability in a region that has seen coups in three countries since 2020 and where leaders have changed laws to stay in power for a third term.

Sunday’s election will give a clear indication of what could happen in 2024.

If the opposition wins, the President will no longer be able to think of a third term. On the other hand, if the ruling party wins the ballot, its supporters could push the president to a third term.Serigne Thiam, Sheikh Anta Diop University

Political analyst Mame Ngor Ngom said: “For (the ruling party), it is a question of doing everything to maintain an absolute majority in the National Assembly to be able to rule quietly until 2024 … and pass certain laws. To protect the possibility of doing. To prepare for all events at the end of the second term of the year.”

Even though Mr Sonko’s candidacy was rejected by the Constitutional Council, he has mobilized opposition supporters in Senegal. A victory for the opposition “would be synonymous with the rejection of a possible third candidacy for the year and a possible victory in the next presidential election”.

The ruling party of Mr Sal’s Beno Bok Yakar currently holds 75% of the seats in the legislature.

Political science expert Serigne Thiam of Sheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar said the opposition was pushing for a possible third term over other issues.

“If the opposition wins, the President will no longer be able to think of a third term. On the other hand, if the ruling party wins the ballot, its supporters could push the president towards a third term,” he warned.

Mr Sal has not spoken about a third term, but has promised to speak on Monday, the day after the election.

Discontent with Mr Sal has grown as potential opponents – including the popular former mayor of Dakar, Khalifa Sal and former president Abdoulaye Wade’s son Karim Wade – have been targeted by the judiciary and disqualified from running for office. has been done. Many accuse Mr. Saul of using his power to eliminate opponents.

Anger has also grown amid economic concerns as the war in Ukraine has pushed up fuel and food prices.

Former Senegalese prime minister and ruling party chief Aminata Tore appealed to the country’s youth to vote.

In Kedougou in the southeast, he declared, “Youth should participate extensively in the vote to thank President Mackie Saal for the extraordinary work he has done for Senegal.”

Interior Minister Antoine Felix Abdoulaye Diome toured polling stations across the country and announced that all arrangements have been made for smooth voting, despite the floods in the past few weeks.