Senegal Votes in Municipal, Regional Elections

Senegal votes in municipal and regional elections on Sunday, amid political tensions over whether President Macky Sall will seek a third term in the nation long seen as one of Africa’s most stable democracies.

For opposition candidates seeking victory in the major cities, the local elections are seen as a test of their strength before the upcoming legislative elections in June and the presidential race in 2024.

Opposition parties have formed a coalition to prevent Sall from pursuing a third term in office, whose tenure has been marked by accusations that he unjustly torpedoes political opponents.

Ousmane Khouma, a professor at Dakar’s Cheikh Anta Diop University, said that territorial elections on Sunday are primaries for the 2024 presidential election in the absence of polls.

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Sall, 60, became president in 2012 and won re-election in 2019.

Following a constitutional referendum in 2016, he has not ruled out seeking a third term. Ivory Coast’s Alassane Ouattara and Guinea’s ousted President Alpha Conde used similar constitutional devices to run again despite violent protests in both countries.

Nearly 6.6 million people are expected to cast ballots at more than 15,000 polling places.

The biggest prize is Dakar, which is in the hands of the opposition, whose coalition is headed by Senegal’s Health Minister Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr.

In addition to six opposition lists, he will face Soham El Wardini, the first woman mayor of Dakar, and Barthelemy Dias, the popular opposition mayor of Dakar Mermoz.

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Dias, 47, is in a coalition with 47-year-old Ousmane Sonko, who finished third in the 2019 presidential election and is seen as a potential presidential contender.

Sonko is leading the opposition charge to capture Ziguinchor, the capital of the Casamance Province in Senegal.

Several days of violent protests followed his arrest last year following a rape allegation, stoking fears that president Sall was interfering with the judiciary to target potential challengers.

“The change we want in the 2024 presidential election starts on January 23, 2022,” Sonko told a recent campaign rally.

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