Senegal casts votes after tense election campaign
Senegalese voters cast ballots yesterday to elect a new parliament, a test run for President Macky Sall ahead of a 2019 presidential election and after a campaign marred by violence and tensions. Most of the 14,000 polling stations opened at 8:00 am (0800 GMT) but there were delays in several places after some sites were hit by a violent overnight storm, local media reported. Polling ends at 6:00 pm and the first results are expected today.
More than 6.2 million people in the west African nation are registered to vote. Sall is seeking to bolster his parliamentary majority as he eyes a second term, while his predecessor Abdoulaye Wade, 91, attempts to drum up support for his own list of candidates and for his son, Karim, who is waiting in the wings with eyes on the top job. “We aren’t talking any longer about July 30, but of 2019,” Prime Minister Mahammed Boun Abdallah Dionne, who is running for a seat with Sall’s coalition, declared at a rally.
In a sign of growing tensions, Interior Minister Abdoulaye Daouda Diallo banned inter-regional travel yesterday until midnight. Sall’s other main opponent, Dakar Mayor Khalifa Sall (no relation), is in jail awaiting trial for what supporters say are politically motivated embezzlement charges.
The mayor had been seen as a key contender for 2019 and a potential threat to the president in parliament until he was charged in March with allegedly misappropriating 1.83 billion CFA francs ($2.85 million, 2.7 million euros) in city funds. There are a record 47 lists of candidates contesting the election, with 165 lawmakers due to take seats in parliament. Fifteen seats are being set aside for Senegalese expatriates-the first time that the country’s diaspora, estimated at half a million, will have direct representation.
Police have fired tear gas and arrested dozens during at times violent campaigning that left several injured in a country normally known for its peaceful democratic traditions. Wade attempted to campaign in a downtown square he had decreed a restricted zone while still president in 2011, an area just meters from the presidential palace. He was pushed back by security forces, leading to several arrests. — AFP