26 Feb 2007
Even before official pronouncements, members of the Sopi 2007 Coalition of the 80-old Abdoulaye Wade are already claiming victory in Sunday’s presidential elections in Senegal. The ‘pope of Sopi’ (sopi means change in the Senegalese wolof language), as some call the elderly Senegalese president, was contesting against a plethora of 14 other candidates amongst whom were two of his former Prime ministers Idrissa Seck (47) and Moustapha Niarse (68).
According to Senegalese election rules, a contestant will need to score more than 50% of the votes to avoid a second round of elections. As early as Monday morning, Wade supporters were already announcing that the outcome of votes counted so far indicates that Wade had scored more than 50%. The director of campaign for Abdoulaye Wade who is also Senegalese P.M Macky Sall said; “Abdoulaye Wade has largely surpassed the 50% required to be declared elected in the first round and the trend is pointing to 57%”. On his part the Public relations officer for the Wade camp, Cheikh Diallo echoed the same message, “We have largely won in the first round. These are weighty and unchanging trends”.
The opposition did not hesitate to accuse the presidential camp of trying to “precipitate” victory. Khalifa Tall, campaign director for the Socialist candidate Ousmane Tamor said; “I think that people shall descend on the streets if Wade proclaims himself winner”. The president of the Electoral Commission brushed aside hints of electoral irregularities. He said that the election witnessed some “dysfunctional” problems but that their effects were not significant as to affect the outcome of the elections.
Abdoulaye Wade became Senegal’s president in 2000 after spending three decades in opposition and participating unsuccessfully in five previous presidential elections. He is just finishing his first term of seven years and is contesting for a second term (A 2001 referendum reduced presidential term from seven to five years).
During the campaign, he waived suggestions that his advanced age was a handicap.
About 5 million people registered for Sunday’s election and over 70% of those that registered turned out to vote (a record number in Senegal’s history).
Senegal (pop. 12 million) is located at the extreme flank of West Africa and French is used as the official language. This country comprising over 85% Muslims is one of the few African countries in which democratic roots run deep. Apart from a separatist movement that has been active in Casamance province since 1982, Senegal is relatively stable when compared to many countries on the African continent. The country has limited resources and about 75% of the population is engaged in some form of agricultural activities. Senegal produces peanuts and cotton and a considerable number of people along the coast are fishermen. About half of Senegalese live in urban centers with Dakar, the nation’s capital being home to more than two million people.
Due to high levels of unemployment and underemployment, Senegalese constitute a visible number of Africans that migrate to Europe. Abdoulaye Wade is conscious of this problem and he promised during the campaign to create more jobs so as to stem the tide of immigration to foreign lands. If and when the judiciary officially proclaims Wade as the winner of the 2007 pools, it will be clear that Senegalese have “voted for continuity” as one of his aides declared.
Njei Moses Timah