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

Photogallery South Africa Bans Travelers From Ebola-stricken Countries

South Africans returning from affected West African countries will be thoroughly screened, required to fill out medical questionnaire, health minister says More

Multimedia UN Launches ‘Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years’ in Iraq

Move aims to help thousands of Iraqi religious minorities who fled their homes as Kurdish, Iraqi government forces battle Sunni insurgents More

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

IT specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about disease 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.
Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbasi
X
Scott Stearns
August 21, 2014 9:20 PM
The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid