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Senegal’s Election and Africa’s Future

Bassirou Diomaye Faye’s resounding victory in Senegal's presidential election gives him strong mandate to pursue measures against corruption and in favor of economic inclusion. But before he can deliver on these campaign promises, he first must shore up the country's democratic institutions and system.

WASHINGTON, DC – Although Senegal’s GDP is dwarfed by that of the West African giant Nigeria, this small country with an open economy plays an outsize role on the continent, owing to its status as a “maturing democracy.” Senegalese pride themselves for having never suffered a coup since achieving independence from France in 1960. That record stands in stark contrast to the rest of the region, where, just in the past few years, governments have been overthrown in Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Gabon.

Of course, there have been fraught transitions of power and other related difficulties, not least under Senegal’s outgoing president, Macky Sall, who long remained silent about whether he would run again in violation of the constitutional term limit. Under mounting pressure from street protesters, he eventually announced that he would not seek another term – but then proceeded to postpone the election until a date long past the expiration of his mandate.

Following the deaths of several protesters and other incidents, Senegal finally held an election on March 24, owing in no small part to a constitutional court ruling striking down Sall’s attempt to extend his mandate. The president-elect is Bassirou Diomaye Faye, a former tax inspector who was in prison just days before the election, alongside his mentor, Ousmane Sonko. Sonko himself was barred from running, and his party, PASTEF (“Patriots of Senegal”), was dissolved last summer.