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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs