Senegalese voters head to the polls on February 24 to elect a president. The incumbent Macky Sall will be seeking a second mandate after he defeated the then-incumbent Abdoulaye Wade in 2012 to become the fifth president in the country’s history.
The vote will be the 11th straight presidential election since Senegal gained independence from France in 1960.
After independence, it was not until 1963 that the first presidential poll was held. A vote won by Leopold Sedar Senghor, who became the first post-independence president. He had been elected president since 1960.
Senghor stood unopposed on the ticket of the Socialist Party of Senegal. He won successive polls and stayed in office for two decades till his resignation in 1980.
After Senghor, who was also a famed poet and respected academic – died in December 2001, the country welcomed the era of President Abdou Diouf who continued the Socialist Party’s reign from 1981 to 2000.
He was appointed Director of the Cabinet of President Senghor in 1963, then Secretary General of the Presidency of Senegal in 1964. Mr. Diouf later held the position of Minister of Planning and Industry from 1968 to 1970 before being appointed Prime Minister in 1970.
He became President of the Republic on January 1, 1981 following the resignation of President Senghor. President Diouf was confirmed in that position in the elections of 1983, 1988, and 1993.
His terms were shaped by a policy of openness to the multi-party system, the gradual liberalization of the economy, and decentralization.
Abdoulaye Wade was next in line taking over in 2001 after winning elections. After 30 years in politics and 19 in the opposition, Mr. Abdoulaye Wade became President of the Republic of Senegal on March 19, 2000, winning elections against then President Abdou Diouf.
His victory was a historic, being the first opposition candidate to defeat the the Socialist Party, that had been in power for 40 years.
He was re-elected President of the Senegal on February 25, 2007 with 51.84% of the vote. In 2012 despite a controversial change of the laws to allow him seek a third term, Wade failed as an opposition coalition ousted him.
On March 25, 2012, he was defeated by Macky Sall, who became the fourth President of the Republic of Senegal with more than 65% of the vote in a runoff – Wade had won the first round.
Sall comes up against four other aspirants in the race to secure his second and final term in office. The most significant development in the lead up to the vote being the disqualification of two persons seen as major aspirants.
Khalifa Sall, a former mayor of Dakar (no relation to President Sall,) and Karim Wade, the son of former President Abdoulaye Wade, were jailed for graft and corruption in 2018 and 2015 respectively.
Under Senegalese law, the sentences effectively ended their chances of running for president, a decision confirmed by the Constitutional Council. Attendant protests against the ruling were dispersed by security forces.
The President is running on the platform of his coalition Benno Bokk Yaakar (BBY); his main opponent is seen in former Prime Minister Idrissa Seck of Rewmi and Madické Niang, candidate for Wade’s Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS).
The other two candidates are Issa Sall of the Party of Unity and Coming Together (PUIR) and Ousmane Sonko of the Patriots of Senegal for Work, Ethics and Brotherhood (Pastef).