Senegal's legislative election tests ruling party influence

Senegal’s legislative election tests ruling party influence

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Senegal is holding a legislative election on Sunday, a crucial test for opposition parties trying to reduce the ruling party’s influence ahead of the 2024 presidential election, over concerns that Amidst that President Mackie Sall may seek a third term.

Nearly seven million voters are eligible to elect 165 representatives to the National Assembly amid a politically tense atmosphere in the West African nation. Violent protests erupted last year after the year’s main rival, Ousmane Sonko, was arrested on rape charges and killed more than a dozen people. Sonko, who came third in the 2019 election, denies the allegations and his supporters have been vocal about their opposition to the president.

This year, he and another major opponent of the year were disqualified as candidates, leading to more widespread anger and protests that killed three people in June.

Senegal, with a population of 17 million, is known for stability in a region that has seen coups in three countries since 2020 and where leaders have changed laws to stay in power for a third term.

Sunday’s election will give a clear indication of what could happen in 2024.

“For (the ruling party), it is a question of doing everything to maintain an absolute majority in the National Assembly to be able to rule quietly until 2024 … and to pass certain laws to prepare for all events. Protecting the prospect. The end of Sal’s second term, ”said political analyst Mam Ngor Ngom.

Even though Sonko’s candidacy was rejected by the Constitutional Council, she has mobilized opposition supporters in Senegal. “The opposition’s victory will be synonymous with the rejection of a possible third candidacy for the year and a possible victory in the next presidential election,” Ngom said.

Sal’s Beno Bok Yakar ruling party currently holds 75% of the seats in the legislature.

Political science expert Serigne Thiam of Sheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar says the opposition is pushing for a possible third term over other issues.

“If the opposition wins, the President will no longer be able to think of a third term. On the other hand, if the ruling party wins the ballot, its supporters could push the president towards a third term,” he warned.

Sal has not talked about a third term, but has promised to speak on Monday, the day after the election.

Discontent with Sal has grown as potential opponents – including Dakar’s popular former mayor, Khalifa Sal and former president Abdoulaye Wade’s son Karim Wade – have been targeted by the judiciary and disqualified from running for office. has gone. Many accuse Sal of using his power to eliminate opponents.

Anger has also grown amid economic concerns as the war in Ukraine has caused fuel and food prices to skyrocket.

Former Prime Minister of Senegal and the head of the ruling party Aminata Torey appealed to the youth of the country to vote.

“The youth should participate extensively in the vote to thank President Mackie Sal for the extraordinary work he has done for Senegal,” he announced in Kedougou in the southeast.

Interior Minister Antoine Felix Abdoulaye Diome toured polling stations across the country and announced that all arrangements had been made for smooth voting despite the floods in the past few weeks.

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Petesh reported from Chicago.

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