News / Africa

    Senegal’s Controversial Election Race Begins

    Posters encourage citizens to vote. The second to the left tells people not to accept bribes from political campaigners in exchange for votes, January 23, 2012
    Posters encourage citizens to vote. The second to the left tells people not to accept bribes from political campaigners in exchange for votes, January 23, 2012
    Jane Labous

    Senegal’s controversial election race begins in earnest this week as the Constitutional Council decides which candidates are eligible to run in the February 26 poll. 

    During the next few weeks a parade of candidates will challenge Abdoulaye Wade, Senegal's aging, but determined incumbent president.

    This week, the Constitutional Council will decide the validity of the presidential candidates, including Wade's bid for a third term, in the February 26 election.

    Dakar’s walls and bridges are splattered with political graffiti and ragged campaign posters - alternately pasted up by one party and destroyed by another.  Billboards ask people not to accept bribes for votes, "don’t touch, don’t approach," they advise.  Citizens hold animated political discussions at coffee stands, on buses and at the beach.

    Much controversy surrounds the question of whether President Wade, who at 85 is one of the world’s oldest heads of state, should stand for a third term.  He was first elected in 2000 for seven years and re-elected in 2007 for five years - after a constitutional reform that also limited presidents to two terms.

    But Wade has become deeply unpopular for trying to cling to power against the constitutional rules.  There were unprecedented riots in June when he tried to force through a bill allowing a presidential candidate to win with just 25 percent of the vote.  The popular uprising forced the president to back down.

    Senegalese singer Youssou N'Dour
    Senegalese singer Youssou N'Dour

    Pop star Youssou N'Dour, an announced presidential candidate, says that like many of his countrymen he believes Wade’s run for re-election is unconstitutional.  He has called for the international community to put pressure on the president to stand down.

    N'Dour says Senegal is a window to democracy, but there is someone trampling the constitution underfoot.  He says many people are trying to make a new Africa, one that respects human rights, fights against poverty and has good governance, but they are in real danger of losing democracy.

    The opposition to President Wade’s Senegalese Democratic Party has been fragmented and disorganized, with more than 15 candidates announcing they will run for president.  Voters are unaware of many of them, and certainly undecided as to how to use their vote.

    Among the most visible opposition candidates are Macky Sall and Idrissa Seck, both former SDP politicians and prime ministers.  Tanor Dieng, the head of the socialist party, is another front runner.  Moustapha Niasse, also a former prime minister, heads up the main opposition coalition Benno Siggil Senegal.  

    Wild card candidates include Youssou N'Dour, virtual unknown Elhadj Diouf and teacher Ibrahima Fall, whom many mention as a favorite, but without the high-profile backing of some.   

    Candidates must deposit approximately $140,000 as a presidential fee, but need around three times that amount to undertake a credible campaign.  

    Babacar Dienne, a 42-year-old lifeguard, says he is waiting for the candidates to be validated before he decides who to vote for.

    "I was a democrat," he says, "and voted for Wade in the past, but now he is too old to be a candidate." Dienne says he has not chosen, but might vote for an opposition candidate.

    Mamadou Lamenbye, 44, is unemployed and says people want change in Senegal because life is such a struggle.

    He says it is a struggle to survive in Senegal because of the system and if the people at the top actually bothered to look at what is really happening, they would realize this.   He says they need to reduce the price of basics, so everyone can afford to buy themselves a kilo of rice.

    Hip hop artists have stepped up to speak out for Senegal’s youth - frustrated by widespread poverty, soaring food and fuel prices, power cuts, and dire unemployment levels.

    Popular singers are believed to have influenced voters to oust longtime president Abdou Diouf in 2000 and elect Wade.

    Now history is repeating itself, and rappers berate the elderly president for failing to understand a discontented generation.   Rapper KT, 35, is one of Dakar’s leading hip hop artists.

    “This verse is about unemployment here, reminding the youth that no matter what, we are part of this country and we really have to stand and reach our goals, " KT explains, "no matter what the difficulties are and what the government is not doing for us, we have to get up, get out, and get something.”

    But KT says many candidates are simply not high profile enough to stand a chance of winning.

    “There are some who stand out - but I think Senegalese people in general are not ready to vote for those people because they do not really know them," he says.  "There is someone like Ibrahima Fall who represents an alternative to the bunch of traditional politicians - but he is not expressing himself enough and not getting well-known enough.  In reality I think it will be a tough choice.”

    But national assembly deputy Amadou Dirade believes Wade is listening to the country’s youth.

    He says the president understands Senegal's youth very well.  He says as one of the youngest deputies in Senegal he believes the country's leaders think of young people from all levels of society.  Dirade says he incontestably supports Wade, who he says has done amazing things to help us become a dignified, serious Africa, which Senegal is proud of.

    The final list of candidates will be decided on January 29.

    You May Like

    US Leaders Who Served in Vietnam War Look Back and Ahead

    In New York Times opinion piece, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator John McCain and former Senator Bob Kerrey say as US strengthens relations with Vietnam, it is important to remember lessons learned from war

    Trans-Adriatic Pipeline to Boost European Energy Security

    $4.5 billion-pipeline will become operational in 2020 and will deliver gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field to southern Italy

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Annual festival showcases the region's harvested agriculture, fine wines and offers opportunities to experience the gentle breeze in a hot air balloon flight

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora