Senegal elections: Voters choose a new president after a political crisis

  • Written by Thomas Nnadi in Ndiaganyaw and Natasha Botti in London
  • BBC News

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Seven million people, some of whom are lining up here in Ndiaganyaw, have the right to vote

Voters in Senegal have begun voting to elect a new president in a postponed election after weeks of political turmoil.

Long lines of voters were witnessed across the country as they flocked to choose from 17 presidential candidates.

After casting his vote, outgoing President Macky Sall warned the candidates against making premature claims of victory.

Elections were scheduled to be held last month but Sall postponed them, sparking bloody opposition protests and a democratic crisis.

Seven million people are eligible to cast their votes in the Muslim-majority West African country, which until then had been praised as a bastion of democracy in the region.

Polling stations are now closed after a largely quiet voting day with most people returning home to prepare for breaking the fast, which occurs at sunset during Ramadan.

Among the contenders for the highest position in Senegal is the candidate of the ruling BBY coalition, former Prime Minister Amadou Ba (62 years old). After casting his vote in the capital, Dakar, he said he was “very confident” of winning the first round of elections.

His main rival, Basserou Diomaye Faye, expressed similar confidence after voting with his two wives in his hometown of Ndiaganyaw, about 100 kilometers from Dakar.

The 44-year-old was released from prison just 10 days ago, after being detained since April 2023 on rebellion charges, which he said were politically motivated.

His ally, opposition leader Ousman Sonko, was also released from prison after an amnesty aimed at calming tensions. He voted in his southern stronghold of Ziguinchor, saying they expected an “impressive victory.”

This man is very popular among young people, and is not allowed to run due to a series of charges that he says are fabricated. He and his now-defunct Pastif party support Mr Fay.

A 25-year-old voter in Ndiaganyaw, who gave only her first name, Mbesene, told the BBC: “This election is a youth election. If I had one [piece of] Advice to other young people, come and vote. This is the only way we can help ourselves.”

At the same polling station, 84-year-old Dejan Guy, who was walking with the help of a cane, said: “I came to vote because today is an important day for our nation. There is a lot at stake and that is why we should care.”

Video explanation,

Senegal elections: a key vote in one of Africa's most stable countries

There were complaints from a polling station in the town of Kour Massar, about 20 kilometers northeast of Dakar, that some people were unable to vote because they had old ID cards, even though their names were on the voter list. The new cards indicate that Keur Massa is now its own voting area and not part of Pikine as it was until 2021.

The BBC team in Kor Masar said that military police were deployed as tensions rose outside the polling station at a school in the town. The Electoral Commission has now said it will try to resolve the situation.

On Friday, former President Abdoulaye Wade and his PDS party threw their support to Fay, after his son Karim Wade was forced to withdraw due to his dual French-Senegalese citizenship.

For the first time in more than a decade, a female candidate is participating in the race. Anta Babakar Nujoom, 40, leads the Congress for Change and Reform Party.

The results are expected to appear within days, and a second round is likely to be held due to the large number of competitors. A candidate needs more than 50% of the votes to be declared the winner.

The world will be watching whether the electoral process leads to the restoration of Senegal's now damaged reputation.

“I did not do anything wrong,” he said, adding that the decision to postpone the vote was not taken unilaterally, but rather because of electoral concerns raised by members of parliament.

“All actions taken were within the framework of the law and regulations.”

More on Senegal's 2024 elections:

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