Senegal: Amadou Ba, candidate of a disunited power

The amphitheater of the very chic King Fahd Palace in Dakar is packed this Thursday, December 21

Senegal: Amadou Ba, candidate of a disunited power

The amphitheater of the very chic King Fahd Palace in Dakar is packed this Thursday, December 21. The setting is sufficiently preserved for Amadou Ba to enjoy his inauguration as candidate of the ruling coalition for the presidential election on February 25, 2024, and to address an audience committed to his cause. The Senegalese Prime Minister is not known for his qualities as a tribune but, in front of the exultant audience, he promises to "mark Senegal as the president of employment" and to make his country, if elected, “a society of greater social equity and shared prosperity.”

The fervor of the evening cannot, however, hide the growing unease in the ranks of power. The candidate, chosen in September by outgoing President Macky Sall, has not yet found a campaign slogan, but he can already adopt Voltaire's formula: "My God, keep me from my friends..." Until - there uttered in private, the criticisms coming from his own political family are now spread in the press.

“His campaign is not working,” judges a power executive. “We are heading towards a disaster,” already predicts another. The most violent charge came from his tourism minister, Mame Mbaye Niang. “Based on studies, we know he loses. He doesn’t even make it to the first round,” he explains to Le Monde, assuming the virulence of his remarks. A few days earlier, this close friend of the first lady had launched hostilities on TFM: “I told Macky Sall that I would agree with any choice on his part (…). However, people need to go to him and tell him that his choice is not the right one and that he should choose another. »

Like him, a fringe of the presidential party considers that Amadou Ba is “illegitimate” in representing him, on the pretext in particular that he only joined the Alliance for the Republic (APR) in 2017, one of the parties of the Benno Bokk Yakaar (BBY, “United by Hope”) coalition, out of “opportunism”. From the bitterness of not having been chosen to defend the colors of power, some have turned to dissent by presenting their own candidacy. The party “held with an iron fist” since 2008 by President Macky Sall is today seriously weakened by the withdrawal of its founder.

“His own allies against him.”

Thus, the former Minister of the Interior, Aly Ngouille Ndiaye, once expected to represent the presidential movement, did not hesitate to resign to run for the supreme office. The former prime minister and former chief of staff of the head of state, Mahammad Boun Abdallah Dionne, also entered the race. “The people of the APR insisted that the head of state nominate a candidate by promising to stand behind his choice. Going back on your commitment because you weren't chosen is a problem. An evaluation of all this will be done when the time comes,” we are already warning at the presidential palace.

The fact remains that if these internal divisions are closely scrutinized at the presidency, this scattering of candidates reveals the inevitable loss of influence of a departing head of state. “What he predicted happened,” says a foreign observer. If he kept quiet about his decision not to run again for so long, it was to postpone these disastrous skirmishes for his camp as late as possible. »

“This signals a certain failure,” notes political analyst Babacar Ndiaye of the Wathi think tank. If the candidacies of his clan are validated by the Constitutional Council, Amadou Ba will have his own allies against him. If he subsequently fails to rally those who failed, his coalition risks being weakened. »

A style considered "bland", a personality considered too techno, Amadou Ba has the reputation of a man of files and not that of a haranguer. “On the pitch, it’s Macky Sall that people applaud. Not him,” squeaks an APR executive. To convince voters, Mr. Ba, a senior state official who worked as a director of the Tax and Estates Inspectorate, has increased his number of tours in the country and abroad in recent weeks. Without always succeeding in electrifying the crowds.

“He shakes his hands and rushes like an arrow.”

At the beginning of December, on the sidelines of the intergovernmental seminar with the French executive, his meeting with the diaspora in a municipal hall in Asnières-sur-Seine (Hauts-de-Seine) announced a difficult pre-campaign. While hundreds of supporters dressed in the beige and brown colors of the BBY coalition had braved the winter cold to see their new candidate, Amadou Ba had not had time to complete his promises to create a “national bank of 'investment for the diaspora' or 'electrification for all by 2026'. A power cut abruptly ended the ceremony, with the Prime Minister having to leave the platform lit only by the light of a cell phone.

“How can he go into the countryside with such a poorly organized team?,” jokes a BBY executive from the Ile-de-France region. It must take control of it again and work on its relationship with the populations. Unlike Macky Sall who always has a word for everyone, he doesn't take enough time to listen. He shakes his hands and rushes like an arrow. »

Emerging from the shadow of a president who designated him as his successor and who remains in office while boasting of ensuring his succession according to his choice, this is the difficulty for Amadou Ba today. Because even if Macky Sall gave up a controversial third mandate, he remains omnipresent on the political scene. His prime minister is inevitably brought back to office. “It’s sort of the kiss of death,” quips an opposition figure. The more Macky Sall appears with him, the less he will exist as a candidate. »

“Good relations with opponents”

“Amadou Ba is himself. He is not Macky Sall, however, defends Pape Mahawa Diouf, the communications coordinator of BBY. He can boast of a long track record of excellence, hence the coalition’s support for his candidacy. He is a leader capable of leading his troops and standing firm in the face of criticism. You will see, over the course of the campaign, he will imprint his style made of balance and attachment to republican values. It is this reassuring profile that the Senegalese are waiting for. »

Promoter of the Emerging Senegal Plan (PSE), Macky Sall's flagship economic program, Amadou Ba does not cultivate his difference with the head of state. On the contrary, it attempts to print a form of quiet continuity. And intends to put to its electoral benefit the achievements in terms of infrastructure, such as the TER, motorways. On the other hand, he will have to hold back the blows of his opponents who will not fail to attack him on the worrying resumption of illegal emigration of young Senegalese.

“We can criticize him for being cold in this pre-campaign, but he has the advantage of having a clean criminal record and of having established good relationships with opponents, including Ousmane Sonko, whom he knew at taxes. His difficulty today is to move from the great technocrat to the politician. This transition is never pleasant,” said a diplomat.

To achieve this, Amadou Ba already knows that he will not benefit from the unanimous support of his political family, but will instead have to rely on a conciliatory speech, in an electrified political atmosphere, and if necessary on the support of the political apparatus. State, of which he has been a servant for over thirty years.