Senegal ruling coalition, opposition claim poll victory

Senegal ruling coalition, opposition claim poll victory

Dakar (AFP): Senegal’s opposition and President Macky Sall’s ruling coalition on Monday both claimed to have won legislative elections in the West African country, while the vote count continued.

“What is undeniable is that it is we who won this election,” Khalifa Sall, one of the opposition leaders, said at a press conference.

“We won and we will not accept that our victory is stolen from us,” he said. Macky Sall’s ruling coalition, however, maintained that it had won while acknowledging the opposition had made some gains in Sunday’s elections.

“We reject any possibility of cohabitation and … reassure our activists that we remain in the majority at the end of this election, despite an advance by the opposition,” former prime minister Aminata Toure, who led the presidential coalition’s list in the elections, said late Monday.

The opposition hoped the elections would impose a cohabitation, or divided government, on Sall and curb any ambitions he may have for a third term. The polls, the last before presidential elections in 2024, were an important test for Sall after local elections in January saw the opposition win in major cities, including the capital Dakar, Ziguinchor in the south and Thies in the west.

Toure on Sunday night claimed to have won 30 of the 46 departments in the country and overseas constituencies. “This undoubtedly gives us a majority in the National Assembly,” she said, while acknowledging her coalition had been defeated in Dakar.
The main opposition coalition, however, expressed “astonishment” at Toure’s remarks, claiming it had won a “comfortable majority” and that the presidential camp was “looking to once again confiscate the vote”.

“We call on national and international opinion to act as witnesses against any attempt to manipulate the results,” the opposition said in a statement Monday.
Ahead of the election, Yewwi Askan Wi (“Liberate the People” in Wolof, one of Senegal’s national languages), the main opposition coalition headed by Ousmane Sonko, who came third in the 2019 presidential election, joined forces with Wallu Senegal (“Save Senegal”), led by former president Abdoulaye Wade.

The two groups agreed to work together to obtain a parliamentary majority and “force governmental cohabitation”. “The provisional results of the legislative elections show that the President of the Republic Macky Sall lost the elections … and that he will not have a majority in the National Assembly,” Wallu Senegal declared Monday.

The coalition also said prominent politicians including former prime minister Toure had been beaten.

Provisional overall results are due no later than Friday, but initial indications sugget the poll was close and that the main opposition coalition had gained ground, particularly in urban areas, according to local media.

The single round of voting will decide the 165 seats of the single-chamber parliament — currently controlled by the president’s supporters — for the next five years.

Sall has promised to appoint a prime minister — a position he abolished and then restored in December 2021 — from the winning camp.

Some seven million Senegalese were eligible to vote in the election, which passed without any major incidents. Turnout at several polling stations appeared relatively low, according to AFP correspondents and observers, and the interior ministry said the participation rate was 47 percent.

Yahya Sall, a retired soldier, said he hoped the new parliament “will have a strong opposition presence… to advance democracy”.

Lawmakers are elected according to a system that combines proportional representation, with national lists for 53 lawmakers and majority voting in the country’s departments for 97 others. The diaspora elects the remaining 15 members of parliament.

The vote took place against a backdrop of rising prices, partly because of the Ukraine war. The opposition has questioned the priorities of the government, which has highlighted its subsidies for oil products and food as well as infrastructure building.

Sall, 60, was elected in 2012 for seven years then re-elected in 2019 for another five. He has been accused of wanting to break the two-term limit and run again in 2024.
He has remained vague on the subject, but any defeat of his supporters in Sunday’s vote could upset such plans. The 21-day election campaign passed in a mostly calm atmosphere.

The pre-campaign period, however, was marked by violent demonstrations that left at least three people dead after several members of the main opposition coalition, including Sonko, were banned from taking part. On June 29, the opposition eased tensions by agreeing to take part in the elections, which it had threatened to boycott.

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