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

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing More

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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportionali
X
Aru Pande
December 19, 2014 1:45 AM
The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportional

The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid