Senegal President Rules Out Bid for Third Term; Eurobonds Rally

Senegalese President Macky Sall ruled out seeking a third term in next year’s presidential elections, bringing an end to a heated controversy over his eligibility to stand.

(Bloomberg) — Senegalese President Macky Sall ruled out seeking a third term in next year’s presidential elections, bringing an end to a heated controversy over his eligibility to stand.

Sall’s announcement lowers the risk of protests by opposition supporters who rejected an extension of his tenure and marks the start of a race to succeed the leader of one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies. The candidate of the ruling Benno Bokk Yakaar coalition will have the edge in the February vote as opposition leader Ousmane Sonko faces disqualification after being convicted of “corrupting youth” and sentenced to two years in prison.

Read more: Why Normally Stable Senegal Is Wracked by Unrest: QuickTake

“The 2019 term was my second and last term,” Sall, 61, said in a televised address to the nation in the capital, Dakar, on Monday. “That’s what I said before and that’s my decision tonight.”

Senegal’s dollar bonds rallied on Tuesday morning. The yield on the nation’s 10-year eurobonds dropped 16 basis points to 8.64% — the lowest since February. 

“The announcement is risk-positive, as a third-term run by Mr. Sall would have triggered more protests,” Oxford Economics Africa Lead Political Analyst Francois Conradie said in a research note on Tuesday.

Senegal is on the cusp of becoming an oil and natural-gas producer, with output set to start later this year at the $4.8 billion Grand Tortue Ahmeyim gas field, which straddles the waters offshore Senegal and Mauritania. Crude production from the $4.2 billion Sangomar project, developed by Australia’s Woodside Energy Group, is also expected to begin in 2023.

The expected start of oil and gas output may lift Senegal’s economic expansion to 8.3% this year, the fastest on the continent after Libya, according to the International Monetary Fund. The Washington-based lender approved $1.8 billion of loans for the country last month to support its recovery and protect it from future shocks.

Senegal has a reputation for upholding democratic rules, particularly compared with its turbulent West African neighbors including Mali and Guinea.

“President Sall’s clear statement sets an example for the region, in contrast to those who seek to erode respect for democratic principles, including term limits,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement on Tuesday.

Senegal’s ruling coalition has yet to nominate a presidential candidate. The main challengers are expected to emerge by August, when candidates are required to submit signatures from at least 0.8% of voters to show they have support.

Among the contenders to succeed Sall is Idrissa Seck, the runner up in Senegal’s 2019 election who stepped down from a government role in April. Seck is “a creature of the centre-right and appeals to business,” Conradie said.

Two other potential candidates — former Dakar Mayor Khalifa Sall, and Karim Wade, the son of a former president — could regain eligibility to stand in 2024 after a political commission that was appointed by Sall said it was in favor of changing the electoral law. Wade and Sall were disqualified from the 2019 vote after they were respectively handed jail sentences for embezzlement and corruption.

Sall came to power in 2012, riding a wave of popular discontent after then-President Abdoulaye Wade sought an unconstitutional third term.

“I will continue to devote all my strength to defend the constitutional institutions of the republic, respect for court decisions, territorial integrity, protection of persons and property,” Sall said. “I will stay by your side, listening to you, at the service of the republic and the nation.”

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