Macky Sall’s political career appeared to have peaked under Abdoulaye Wade, where after serving as prime minister he fell from favour. On Sunday however, he replaced his former mentor as president.
Results were barely out on Sunday when a few hours after polls closed, Wade phoned his former protege to congratulate him on his win, as exit polls showed his overwhelming lead.
Whereas Wade had spent 25 years as an opposition leader before finally winning the presidency, Sall won the country’s top political prize at his first attempt.
There was a time when Sall, 50, was widely tipped to get there under Wade’s patronage: many observers thought he was being groomed to succeed the veteran leader. But after a spectacular rise during which he occupied several ministerial portfolios before becoming prime minister, he fell from grace, quit the party and struck out on his own.
In the February 26 first round of the presidential election, a crowded field of opposition candidates led to fears in some quarters that Wade would be able to win outright victory because of the divided competition.
Sall did enough to ensure both that Wade would not win outright – as the president had predicted he would – and that it would be he who faced him in the second-round run-off.
Although Wade led in the first round, the combined weight of the opposition vote favoured Sall — provided, of course, he could win their support.
Between the two rounds Sall won the backing of his former rivals, for more than anything, the opposition wanted the 85-year-old president out of office.
Sall was born to a modest family in the western city of Fatick, to a civil servant father and a mother who sold groundnuts. He graduated from Dakar’s Cheikh Anta Diop University with a degree in geology, before heading to France to further his education in the field.
His father was a dedicated member of the Socialist Party which had been in power since independence, but Sall says he quickly became disgusted with its misrule, joining the opposition in 1983.