Senegal’s leading presidential candidatesWed, 20 Mar 2024 02:46:06 GMT

Eighteen men and one woman are in the running on Sunday to become Senegal’s fifth president and replace Macky Sall, who has held the top job since 2012. Sall is not seeking a third term, making this the first time the West African nation will head to the polls without an incumbent standing.Here are the top contenders. – Amadou Ba: Sall’s chosen successor -Hand-picked by President Sall to represent the governing coalition, the 62-year-old former tax inspector pitches himself as a level-headed “servant of the state”.As economy minister from 2013 until 2019, Ba played a key role in implementing the Emerging Senegal Plan — a vast multi-year development programme.After a spell as foreign minister, he was appointed prime minister in September 2022 and held the post until early March.Ba would inherit Sall’s efforts to transform Senegal, with his experience and polished tone thought to inspire the confidence of foreign partners.The former PM is also considered to have an extensive network of supporters within Senegal, including influential religious leaders. Ba has called for “unity”, “peace” and “hope” and pledged to create one million jobs in five years if elected, through investment in agriculture, industry, infrastructure and renewable energy.- Anti-establishment opponent Bassirou Diomaye Faye – The new face of Senegal’s anti-establishment opposition, the 43-year-old former tax inspector could be a favourite to reach the second round.Faye is replacing firebrand figurehead Ousmane Sonko on the presidential ballot after the latter was barred from running.Both men were released from prison to jubilant crowds last week, and their camp predicts victory in the first round if the vote goes ahead without fraud.They are running under the slogan “Diomaye mooy Ousmane”, meaning “Diomaye is Ousmane” in Wolof, and are hoping to harness Sonko’s charisma and popular appeal amongst Senegal’s youth. Pitching himself as the candidate for “system change” and “left-wing pan-Africanism”, Faye promises to reclaim Senegal’s sovereignty.”Diomaye has broad enough shoulders to steer the project,” said spokesman El Malick Ndiaye, in response to repeated criticism over his lack of experience.- Khalifa Sall: Ex-Dakar mayor -At 68, the former mayor of the capital Dakar is one of the oldest presidential candidates, but hopes his 40 years of political experience will make him a threat in the race.Sall, who is not related to the president, held several ministerial positions under socialist head of state Abdou Diouf. He then ran the capital between 2009 and 2018 and is an ally of the current mayor of Dakar, which is home to 20 percent of Senegal’s population.Sall was barred from running for president in 2019 due to a conviction for financial crimes during his time as mayor, which he maintains was a set-up.He was granted his freedom following a presidential pardon in 2019, after almost two years behind bars.He joined forces with Sonko during the 2022 legislative elections, but the coalition fell apart the next year when Sall regained his eligibility to run for president. Sall says he will dedicate at least 1,000 billion CFA francs ($1.66 billion) of the annual budget to agriculture, and renegotiate fishing agreements.- Idrissa Seck: Fourth time lucky? -The 64-year-old political veteran is hoping fourth time’s a charm in the run up to Sunday’s vote.Seck was an ally and prime minister of former president Abdoulaye Wade between 2002 and 2004, before relations broke down.He was jailed for several months in 2005 and 2006 for alleged irregularities in the awarding of public contracts, but the case was later dismissed. Seck ran against Wade in 2007, finishing second, and then tried again in 2012. He didn’t make it through the first round but supported the eventual winner Macky Sall to prevent Wade from securing a third term.In 2019, Seck ran against Sall and again came second, securing his best result with 20 percent of the vote.He did particularly well in his stronghold of Thies, the central city where he was mayor for 12 years. Seck’s appointment in 2020 to one of Senegal’s highest offices, the presidency of the Economic, Social and Environmental Council, confirmed his reconciliation with the head of state. Seck has proposed making military service compulsory.