An official of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has said the sub-regional bloc’s poll observer mission to Senegal is scheduled to meet stakeholders Wednesday ahead of Sunday’s presidential vote.
ECOWAS communications director Sonny Ugoh said the poll observer team will also hold talks with leaders of the ruling party and the opposition to encourage their supporters to desist from violence in the run up to the election.
“They will meet all the stakeholders in an effort to talk to them about the value of the process of the election and to get a sense of their concerns about that process,” continued Ugoh, “so that we can have a holistic report about how best to address whatever issues that they have highlighted as germane to democracy in that country.”
The poll observer team, which will be led by Togo’s former Prime Minister Koffi Sama, comprises members of the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice, the ECOWAS parliament, legal and civil society and electoral experts.
It also contains representatives of the National Electoral Commissions of member states, ambassadors and experts from the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre in Accra, Ghana.
Ugoh said the observer team is scheduled to meet members of Senegal’s National Electoral Commission, government officials, security agencies and diplomats, as well as the country’s civil society organizations.
Senegal’s electoral body says an estimated more than five million Senegalese have registered to vote in Sunday’s presidential poll in the country’s 14 regions.
Incumbent President Abdoulaye Wade has faced violent opposition protests in his bid for a court-approved third term, despite a two-term constitutional limit. Demonstrators have vowed to continue their protests in an attempt to prevent Wade from participating in Sunday’s vote. But, analysts say it is unlikely the protests will force Wade to abandon his third term bid.
Ugoh said the ECOWAS poll observer team will encourage members of both the ruling party and opposition supporters to resolve their differences ahead of the election.
“We have a stake in making sure that there is stability, peace and security there because that is the only way we can develop as a region,” said Ugoh. “We have always emphasized the necessity of dialogue and we will continue to encourage that. Democracy can only be constructed by the people of Senegal, in this case, working together.”
Ugoh described as unfortunate the ongoing violence, which observers say has left at least six protesters dead and scores injured.
He said ECOWAS is hopeful that Sunday’s election will be credible.
“It’s only by working together that they can take the next step forward in their evolving democracy for the benefit and future of their country,” continued Ugoh, “that the elections will be peaceful, fair that it will be transparent and acceptable to the extent that it will meet all the fundamentals of the country’s constitution and the expectations of our regional instrument of democracy and good governance.”