Senegal Election 2024: What You Need to Know

  • Why does this election matter?

  • Who is running?

  • What are the main issues?

  • When will the results be released?

  • Who is likely to win?

  • Where to find more information?

  • What other elections are happening?

Why does this election matter?

It should have been one of Africa’s more boring polls.

Senegal, with a ticking economy, is seen as a stable, safe country — no small feat in western Africa, where coups, crises and insurgencies abound. A president regarded as a steady hand is stepping down after two terms. A pool of candidates is taken mainly from the political old guard.

But then the president, Macky Sall, blew up any chance of a mundane election. He went on state television and canceled the vote, alleging corruption in the way candidates were approved by constitutional court.

In the uproar that followed, Mr. Sall backtracked and said that the vote would go ahead on March 24, nine days before his term ends. And then, in a dramatic move, he released the leading opposition candidate and the leader of the opposition party from prison.

Who is running?

The governing party’s candidate is Amadou Ba, a former prime minister. The man many see as the main challenger, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, was just released from jail. He’s backed by a popular but divisive politician, Ousmane Sonko. Then there are 17 other candidates, among them former mayors and prime ministers.

But what’s more important is who’s not running. That would be Mr. Sonko, who cannot take part because he was convicted of corrupting a minor, in a scandal involving a young massage parlor employee who accused him of rape. Mr. Sonko is Mr. Sall’s main opponent, a (relatively) young former tax inspector who has dominated politics in Senegal recently, mainly by criticizing elites and promising to help Senegal’s jobless youth.

Mr. Sonko has many critics. But many young Senegalese say he speaks truth to power, and they have repeatedly taken to the streets in his defense despite the risk of death at the hands of the police. Along with Mr. Faye, he was released from jail on Thursday night.

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