The continuities are visible on three levels. First, against all expectation, Macky Sall has relied on the old political class as his power base. By allying with Macky Sall, Niasse and Dieng both brought about the implosion of their respective parties while some party members rebelled, asserting their political independence and openly aligning with the opposition. To create a mass basis for his young party, Macky Sall encouraged "transhumance", a morally loaded term in Senegalese politics used to describe opposition leaders who switch sides in exchange for all kinds of benefits.
This growth, as seen to some degree all over Africa, has not created a large pool of decent jobs for a continuously growing workforce. Macky Sall had promised to create , jobs during his seven-year term. To defend his record , he claimed to have created , jobs between and , a figure not as yet confirmed by any verifiable statistical source. The paucity of efforts in this area certainly justified the Rapid Entrepreneurship Delegation DER , a state-run programme launched to fund start-ups, which is ultimately a means to garner votes than support small business and industry.
Job creation is a real problem and is likely to become an even bigger one in light of the job destruction occurring in the informal small business sector caused in part by infrastructure programmes which are cutting off towns that used to live off road trade and competition between oligopolies in the distribution sector.
Additionally, economic growth is often accompanied by environmental degradation, as highlighted by Bargny, a town which symbolises the contradictions of economic emergence where the long-term benefits of this type of development for the population appear doubtful. A new aspect of the presidential elections is parrainage or citizen sponsorship. Financial guarantees alone now no longer suffice.
Initially implemented without any real dialogue between the government and the opposition, the measure came under heavy fire from civil society organisations and the opposition. These shortcomings aside, citizen sponsorship has been a very useful measure. For one, it has drastically reduced the initial number of candidates set to run in the presidential elections—from over one hundred!
Twenty-seven aspiring candidates were eventually permitted to take part in the citizen sponsorship eliminatory round.
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In the end, seven candidates garnered the requisite number of signatures, yet only five had their candidacy validated by the constitutional council. Khalifa Sall and Karim Wade were rejected and declared unelectable on account of their respective criminal records. Khalifa Sall was sentenced for misappropriation of funds and is currently in prison.
While the sponsorship system has made for a more organised electoral race, the risk for the future is that women and younger people, the great losers of this presidential election , will find it harder to stand as candidates. The presidential election campaign began on 2 February and closes on 22 February.
Idrissa Seck, secretary general of the Rewmi the country Party, is a powerful politician. At the time many believed him capable of ousting Wade. He came fifth in the presidential elections, taking only 7. His ratings are just on the rise again. Many of their followers will probably embrace Idrissa Seck, as have most of the candidates who failed to collect enough signatures. He was justice minister and later foreign minister under Abdoulaye Wade, with whom he now has a difference of opinion. Very close to Touba, the stronghold of the powerful Mouride brotherhood, Niang, a lawyer by profession, swore never to support Macky Sall.
After being expelled from public service by presidential decree, he won a seat in parliament in the elections.
His ratings have been on the up ever since. Aged 44 and self-professedly anti-establishment, he has managed to "re-politicise" segments of the youth disheartened by the traditional political class.
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- Country profile: Senegal.
Sonko is the most popular politician on social media and among the Senegalese diaspora. Issa Sall is the other political sensation of this presidential election. He might be an unassuming man, but Issa Sall is no newcomer. The left is the big hole in the Senegalese presidential elections. Unsurprisingly perhaps.
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The political parties that identify as left are still serving up the same old rhetoric and repertoire of political action and mobilisation. The course of their strategy has always been motivated by a need to win political power through elections not the most sensible approach given their limited financial resources rather than identifying with the struggles of the lower and middle classes and offering grassroots alternatives.
Since , not a single left party has obtained , votes in any election. Ironically, the left-wing parties are being marginalised just at a time when the electorate is increasingly concentrated in the suburbs and other working-class areas where social conditions mean that the need for progressive left-wing options is real and ongoing. They have been diluted in coalitions in which they have completely lost their own identity. To quote the Senegalese intellectual Amadou Kah , they have abandoned the class war at the expense of the seat war.
Their image has severely suffered from their recurrent participation in so-called liberal governments. In Senegal, the left has ceased to exist, whether as a political programme or as an organised popular movement. In its current state, the left is reduced to being a discourse of ideological identity whose only relevance is at the international level. Nevertheless, one section of the left which remained bureaucratic but maintained its principles supports the candidate Ousmane Sonko. But in order to transform the country for the better, argues Elimane Kane, the country needs more than a new president or fairer elections.
The population needs a new consciousness. Senegal has just emerged from its eleventh presidential elections. The vote, held on 24 February, concluded with a proclamation of victory for the incumbent, Macky Sall, who will duly take up his second term in office. It was a bitterly disputed contest among the five official candidates approved by the Constitutional Council, via a sponsorship system-based selection process that shrank a pool of some 30 candidates to the final five.
It was a process that worked in favour of the incumbent from the start. Throughout the contest, Sall deployed his powerful status as head of state, given to him by a hyper-presidential regime, in his own favour. But the question is, who helped Sall win the presidential election hands down, without anyone raising any objections? Some observers have spoken of the guarantees that foreign allies may have given him. I am convinced that Senegalese democracy has, once again, fallen victim to the capture of power by financial lobbies that joined forces with Sall to help him secure a clear victory.
It is clear that there was heavy artillery operating behind the scenes to manipulate the process in his favour. What favours does he owe these parties in return? And at what price? Where is the patriotism in all of this? Will Sall have a free hand to govern Senegal in the sole interests of the Senegalese people?
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Voters go to the ballot box believing that they are freely choosing a president, unaware of the behind-the-scenes machinery whose levers shape their decisions: the elimination of certain candidates with political power, the mediatisation that makes some candidates more visible than others, the manipulation of electoral rolls and the electoral map, the corruption of elected officials, the scientific stuffing of ballot boxes in zones that the opposition is unable to monitor. And above all Sonko connected with the Senegalese diaspora in the West, who are keenly aware of the complexity of the crises in Western countries and who still hope for a homeland worth returning to.
The political trajectory of Sonko, who was suspended from the Civil Service for whistleblowing, is built on the courage of his convictions and in particular his battle against bad governance. The real interest in his candidacy lies in its test of the extent to which the discourse about rupture, and the establishment of sovereign alternatives, can be achieved through the mechanism of representative democracy. It remains to be seen whether his support is the first sign of a burgeoning critical mass, an expression of hope by young people seeking a better future, or both.
However, it is clear that his future success will depend on his anti-system position itself, and on his capacity for leadership to challenge Senegalese politics. In his declaration of victory, the newly re-elected president of the Republic adopted a posture of humility and the willingness to open a new chapter. It must also must be acknowledged that tyranny could be seen across all camps during this election, with the complicity of the elite, even in media and civil society circles.
If all sides agree to say mea culpa , perhaps we can forgive without forgetting to look ahead. And in the next five years, Senegal has two crucial major challenges to confront: the stability of the country and the governance of natural resources. In terms of security, the two are closely linked. Stability mostly correlates with the way the post-election transition will be handled between the winner and the losers, through the opening of a wide political dialogue on key issues.
However, official strategy positions the private sector at the heart of its resource policy.