High Probability of a Run-Off Poll in Senegal

Wade was booed as he cast his ballot in Dakar

Senegalese voters went to the poll on Sunday to elect a new president or return the incumbent president Abdoulaye Wade, who is vying for a third term in office. The country has seen violent protests between demonstrators and security forces leading up to the elections, the former contesting the ‘legality’ of president Wade’s candidature for a third presidential term.

The Constitutional Council of the country whose judges were appointed by Wade validated his candidature, and Wade has claimed that he needs this third term in order to complete his development projects.

Preliminary reports from Sunday’s election suggest a relatively low voter turnout of about 60 per cent, down by 10 percentage points from the 2007 presidential poll. However, this still shows that people are committed to the electoral process and that even though Wade’s candidature was met with hostility from the opposition, the people still believe in the electoral process.

The same preliminary reports, based on about 50 per cent of the votes, put Wade ahead with a little over 30 per cent of the votes, followed closely by one of his former prime ministers, Macky Sall, at some 25-28 per cent. If this trend continues, there is a high likelihood of a run-off poll between the two in mid-March, a probability already confirmed by Wade himself in a press conference yesterday, but which the opposition thinks is ‘inevitable’.

Should this be the case, the likelihood of a majority of other opposition leaders rallying behind Sall is high, which would happen either by choice or force. The force will come from the fact that the various opposition candidates are as divided among themselves as they are united against Wade, but that popular sentiments of their electors, which are anti-Wade, may force them to put their differences aside.

This is however not to say that it will be ‘all over’ for Wade, as he could garner the endorsement of some opposition candidates, such as Idrissa Seck, another of his former Prime Ministers, who he could promise to hand over power to him in a specified period of time, in return for his support.

It should be recalled that Seck accuses Sall (who succeeded him as Prime minister in 2004) for some of his legal tribulations on corruption charges. But even in this case, which is a mere assumption at this stage, the support of an opposition leader for Wade may not necessarily translate into that candidate’s supporters following suite, and it is the latter that counts. What this ultimately means is that a second round does not augur well for the incumbent president.

Meanwhile, various African leaders and institutions have upped their calls for calm in the country in an attempt to avoid any violence associated with the elections, against the backdrop of the clashes that preceded it. The African Union can employ the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG) to ensure the integrity of the electoral process. Interestingly, this Charter has now finally been ratified by the required 15 AU member countries needed for it to enter into effect.