In Senegal, 70 presidential contenders including Ousmane Sonko

Two months before the election, it is a key stage for the contenders for the supreme office

In Senegal, 70 presidential contenders including Ousmane Sonko

Two months before the election, it is a key stage for the contenders for the supreme office. They had until Tuesday December 26 inclusive to submit their candidacy file for the February 25 election to the Constitutional Council, with the major challenge of collecting a sufficient number of sponsorships: the signatures of 44,231 voters, 13 deputies or of 120 mayors and departmental council presidents.

Until late in the evening, files were filed. Their exact number has not been communicated, but according to information from Monde Afrique, more than 70 people have applied, including Prime Minister Amadou Ba, successor to Macky Sall, the outgoing president. Facing him, the main opponent of the ruling party finally stood as a candidate on Sunday, after months of suspense. In detention, Ousmane Sonko was represented by Ayib Daffé. However, nothing assures him that his application will be validated: he has submitted neither sponsorship nor certificate for the deposit, although these are supposed to be obligatory. Instead, he had a bailiff note his inability to obtain these documents from the administrative authorities supposed to issue them.

Entangled in several legal cases, Ousmane Sonko was sentenced to two years in prison for “corruption of youth” in a case which pitted him against Adji Sarr, an employee of a massage parlor who accused him of rape, and a six-month suspended prison sentence for defamation and public insult against the Minister of Tourism, Mame Mbaye Niang. He is also incarcerated for calling for insurrection and endangering state security. But on December 14, the Dakar high court overturned the decision removing him from the electoral rolls.

“It’s administrative banditry”

However, the General Directorate of Elections (DGE), which depends on the Ministry of the Interior, refused to give him his sponsorship forms. Tuesday, December 19, Ayib Daffé was not even able to enter the DGE offices. “It’s administrative banditry,” said Mr. Sonko’s representative in the face of the police barrier installed in front of the premises of the electoral body. Accompanied by Me Ciré Clédor Ly, Ousmane Sonko's lawyer, and a bailiff, he returned the next day to the Caisse des Dépôts et Consignation (CDC) to try to obtain the deposit certificate. of his candidate before being once again blocked from entering by the police. “The name [of Mr. Sonko] does not appear on the list of those who received sponsorship forms,” justified the director of the CDC, Cheikh Issa Sall, also an executive of the Alliance for the Republic (APR ), the ruling party.

Those close to Ousmane Sonko say they are confident that the Constitutional Council will take note of the obstacles to the submission of their leader's candidacy but nothing is yet certain. The body announced that it would not take into account “incomplete files due to the absence of one of the required documents” to be a candidate.

The former Pastef, dissolved by the State of Senegal following the arrest of Ousmane Sonko at the end of July, still retains two wild cards with the submission of the candidacy of the party's number two, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, in prison since April 2023 as well as that of Habib Sy. A third surprise candidacy concocted “at the last minute”, confides one of the members of Mr. Sonko’s entourage. The former close friend of ex-president Abdoulaye Wade, several times minister before being his chief of staff, is a founding member of the opposition coalition Yewwi Askan Wi of which he was president until October.

The list of contenders published on January 20

In addition to the ex-Pastef, the main opposition figures are launched in the race to succeed Macky Sall, such as the former mayor of Dakar, Khalifa Sall, and Karim Wade, the son of Abdoulaye Wade (l ex-president of Senegal from 2000 to 2012) who has lived in exile in Qatar since 2016 and has not announced whether he plans to return to Dakar. Both were unable to participate in the 2019 presidential election due to legal convictions. A reform of the electoral code in August allowed them to recover their rights. Three former prime ministers of Macky Sall, Abdoul Mbaye, Aminata Touré and Mohamed Boun Abdallah Dione have also submitted their candidacy. Idrissa Seck, who came in second place in the previous presidential election in 2019, will also try to win this time after three unsuccessful attempts.

The candidates' files will now be studied by the judges of the Constitutional Council who will announce on January 10 those who have been selected. The final list of contenders for the presidential election will be published on January 20, after an appeal period. In 2019, the institution rejected twenty of twenty-seven applications due to errors or duplicates detected in the files. The 2024 presidential election could be one of the most open in Senegal's political history. For the first time, the vote will be held without the participation of the outgoing president who, after twelve years in power, pledged on July 3 not to seek a third term.