Senegal conducted its presidential election on Sunday, February 24, a day after Nigeria’s Presidential and National Assembly elections. Frontrunners in Senegal’s elections were President Macky Sall, who ran on the platform of his Benno Bokk Yaakar (BBY) coalition; Issa Sall of the Party of Unity and Coming Together (PUIR); Ousmane Sonko of the Patriots of Senegal for Work, Ethics and Brotherhood (Pastef); Madické Niang of the Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS) and Idrissa Seck of Rewmi.
The National Vote Counting Commission (NVCC) released the results of the election with despatch and announced President Macky Sall’s election to a second term with 58.7 per cent of the total votes cast. Senegalese electoral law stipulates that a winner in its presidential election must garner not less than 50 per cent of the votes. If the score is less, then there has to be a re-run election. The other contenders polled as follows: Idrissa Seck, 20.5% of the vote; Member of Parliament Ousmane Sonko, 15.67%; Issa Sall, who is head of a private university, 4.07% and former minister Madicke Niang, who got 1.48% of the votes.
Though the four other candidates who were defeated in the election condemned and rejected its outcome, they announced their decision not to challenge the result in the constitutional court. They said, “We firmly and unreservedly reject this result. We will not appeal to the Constitutional Council.”
In spite of the rejection of the results, international observers gave the election a pass mark. For instance, Elena Valenciano, head of a European Union election observer group, reportedly remarked that the election was “calm and transparent”. She added, however, that the atmosphere in Senegal during the election was “in a climate characterised by a lack of trust and blocked dialogue between the opposition and the majority.” The African Union Election Observation Mission noted that “the voting was conducted in a calm and serene manner. This success honours not only the Senegalese people and political stakeholders, but also the entire African continent.”
While we congratulate re-elected President Sall, we encourage him to reach out to the leaders of the parties he defeated and form a government of national unity. President Sall has to ensure that he carries along all Senegalese, unite the people and build confidence in them so that they could trust and cooperate with him in the task of nation-building. Furthermore, we call on him to use this second term to deal with the besetting problem of poverty in the West African country. With a population of 16.5million and diverse natural resources, Senegal should be one of the developed countries in Africa. However, over 50 per cent of Senegalese live below poverty line, with unemployment said to be as high as 55 per cent.
These indices are manifest in the low literacy level, put at 39 per cent of the entire population, HIV/AIDS prevalence and generally weak health sector. Other challenges facing Senegal include periodic drought, seasonal flooding, deforestation and desertification. They also include overgrazing, soil erosion, over fishing and even weak environmental protection laws.
With the above, the newly-re-elected president has his job cut out for him. President Sall faces the challenge of lifting Senegal from depending on hand-outs as aid from France and other European countries, to a country that is actively involved in the productive sector. Nature has blessed Senegal with resources like phosphates, zircon, iron ore, gold, industrial limestone, salt and even wildlife. Like all other African countries, Senegal should rise to the challenge of adding value to these natural resources instead of exporting them as mere raw materials to the developed world. We encourage the new president to key into regional and continental initiatives to develop African countries. Any country that does not produce goods and services for its population and for export is doomed to poverty. This should not be the story of Senegal.