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Senegal’s Faye set to become president in opposition victory

SENEGAL opposition candidate Bassirou Diomaye Faye, a political newcomer popular among the country’s disaffected youth, was set to be declared the next president after his main rival called him to concede defeat.

Provisional results showed Faye with about 53.7% and Amadou Ba – from the current ruling coalition – with 36.2% based on tallies from 90% of polling stations in the first-round vote, the electoral commission said.

Ba and President Macky Sall both congratulated Faye, who turned 44 on Monday. They hailed the outcome as a win for Senegal, whose reputation as one of West Africa’s most stable democracies took a hit when Sall postponed the vote.

Presidential candidate Bassirou Diomaye Faye, who is backed by Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, walks with one of his wives after casting his vote at the polling station at Ndiaganiao in Mbour, Senegal March 24, 2024. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

“The Senegalese people have reinforced the good health of our democracy.. I wish him (Faye) success at the head of our country,” Ba said.

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A peaceful transition of power in Senegal would mark a boost for democracy in West Africa, where there have been eight military coups since 2020.

Some of the juntas that seized power have cut ties with traditional power-brokers in the region such as France and the United States, and turned instead to Russia for help in their fight against a jihadist insurgency spreading through countries that neighbour Senegal.

Senegal’s international bonds rose on reports that Faye was close to being declared a winner, reversing sharp falls from earlier in the day.

Many hope the vote will bring stability and an economic boost after three years of unprecedented political turbulence which saw several waves of deadly anti-government protests.

READ:  Senegal's ex-President Wade and party back opposition candidate Faye

“I am happy to see there is a wind of change,” said Tall, an opposition supporter who joined revellers during the night as street celebrations broke out in anticipation of Faye’s victory.

“It is wonderful because democracy has won. Many thought it would not happen,” he said, only wishing to give his first name.

Full, official results are expected to be announced by the Dakar appeals court on Friday.

YOUNG VOTERS

Faye has not publicly spoken since he cast his vote. He owes much of his success to the backing of firebrand opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, who was barred from running due to a defamation conviction.

The two former tax inspectors, who were both released from jail this month, campaigned together under the slogan “Diomaye is Sonko”, promising to fight corruption and prioritise national economic interests.

They are particularly popular among young voters in a country where more than 60% of people are under 25 and struggle to find jobs.

Supporters of Senegalese presidential candidate Bassirou Diomaye Faye celebrate early results showing that Faye is leading initial presidential election tallies, in Dakar, Senegal, March 24, 2024. REUTERS/Luc Gnago

Police crackdowns on protests, the government’s failure to cushion rising living costs and concerns Sall would seek to extend his mandate beyond constitutional limits buoyed the opposition.

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Anger crystallised around Sonko’s prosecution only grew when authorities sought to postpone the vote, initially scheduled to take place in February, by 10 months.

Investors are meanwhile wary about a potential change in leadership to an anti-establishment government that may not pursue the same business-friendly policies seen under Sall’s government that has attracted investments into infrastructure.

READ:  Thousands of Senegal opposition supporters join three-day protest

Senegal is set to start producing oil and gas this year.

Faye has promised a raft of changes including plans to renegotiate the country’s oil and gas contracts, though he sought to reassure investors last week that the country would respect its external commitments.

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By PORTIA CROWE, DIADIE BA, BATE FELIX and SOFIA CHRISTENSEN

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