Senegal’s governing coalition has retained a slim majority in the just concluded legislative elections, data released by the National Electoral Commission on Thursday shows.
President Macky Sall’s governing coalition won 82 seats, ahead of the coalition led by his main rival Ousmane Sonko, with 56 seats. The remaining seats in the 165-seat parliament went to six other parties or coalitions.
Nearly 40 political parties fielded candidates under eight parties or coalitions. But the contest was actually between these two groups – Sall’s Benno Bok Yaakaar (Bby) (Wolof for United in Hope) coalition and Sonko’s Yewwi Askan Wi (WAW) (Liberate the People) coalition.
Both coalitions claimed they won Sunday’s votes, even before the announcement by the competent authorities. Sonko, 48, had the backing of another coalition - Wallu Senegal (Save Senegal), which is headed byformer President Abdoulaye Wade.
Seven million Senegalese were registered to vote for what will be the 14th legislature of the country’s single-chamber parliament.
Before Sunday’s vote, the House was dominated by Sall’s supporters. The opposition hoped the outcome of the elections would put an end to that, along with the rumored plan of the president to contest the 2024 presidential election.
First elected in 2012, Sall was re-elected in 2019 for a five-year term. The 60-year-old leader amended the constitution after his first election to reduce the presidential term from seven to five.
Although that move was praised by his supporters as a sign of a democrat, for his critics, that was when he first indicated his intention to go beyond the constitutional two-term limit. Sall has never publicly denied his alleged third intention to run for a third term.
Sonko, a former Chief Tax Inspector of Senegal, became Sall’s opponent when he was sacked after he probed powerful allies of the president. The former lawmaker, one of the youngest Senegalese to run for the top job, has since grown popular among the youths who see him as a worthy anti-corruption crusader, because of his tax justice advocacy.
Sonko came third in the 2019 presidential contest, his first attempt at the position. He and some other members of his coalition were banned from running in these polls on technical grounds.
The run-up to the polls was characterized by widespread violence, as the opposition challenged the actions of the incumbent it felt were meant to prevent its victory. At least three people died in protests sparked by disagreements over the electoral list.
While the opposition campaigned on the platform of restoring “cohabitation” in the parliament, accusing the ruling party of failing to protect the people from a harsh economic reality, the latter wanted to continue in its development trajectory – mostly major infrastructural development.
Senegal’s parliamentarians are elected under a proportional representation system.
Although it maintains a majority in the House, the results of last weekend’s vote represent a disappointment for President Sall. His ruling coalition lost 43 seats, leaving it in danger of having to run the country without the Speaker of Parliament from within its rank. That is what the opposition needed to kill any chance of him running for a third term.
The combined opposition seats are 83. How they make use of this to determine the future of Senegal remains to be seen in the next coming days or weeks.
Meanwhile, all eyes will now be on the Senegalese Constitutional Court, which is expected to confirm the final results, after the opposition contested some of the results won by the incumbent party.