Senegal opposition candidate Faye set to win presidential election

Ruling coalition candidate Amadou Ba concedes election and congratulates Bassirou Diomaye Faye for first-round victory.

Bassirou Diomaye Faye (second from right) gestures after casting his ballot at the Ecole Ndiandiaye polling station in Ndiaganiao during Senegal's presidential elections [File: Seyllou/AFP]

Senegal’s opposition candidate Bassirou Diomaye Faye, a political newcomer popular among the country’s disaffected youth, is set to be declared the next president after his main rival Amadou Ba conceded defeat.

Provisional results after Sunday’s presidential vote showed Faye with about 53.7 percent and Ba with 36.2 percent based on tallies from 90 percent of polling stations in the first-round vote, the electoral commission said on Monday.

Earlier, ruling coalition candidate Ba called Faye to offer his congratulations, a government spokesman told journalists.

“In light of presidential election result trends and while we await the official proclamation, I congratulate … Faye for his victory in the first round,” Ba said in a statement.

Senegal’s outgoing President Macky Sall also congratulated Faye, hailing “a victory for Senegalese democracy”.

Sall, who did not stand after wins in 2012 and 2019, said he “salutes the smooth running of the election” and “congratulates the winner, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, who the poll trends show as winning”.

Several opposition contenders had also conceded defeat to Faye during the night, including Anta Babacar Ngom, the only woman running.

Reporting from Senegal’s capital Dakar, Al Jazeera’s Nicolas Haque said that the announcement comes on Faye’s birthday.

“Faye is turning 44 today and he has now been congratulated for winning this incredible unprecedented election,” he said.

“Remember just 10 days ago Faye was in prison. He spent over 11 months in prison for a Facebook post that authorities deemed subversive. Now he went from political prisoner to the next president of Senegal … and he promises sweeping changes to the country.”

Senegal's election
A voter casts her ballot at the Ndiandiaye school polling station Ndiaganiao during Senegal’s presidential elections [File: Seyllou/AFP]

Millions in Senegal took part in the vote to elect the country’s fifth president.

The polls followed three years of political turbulence that sparked violent anti-government protests and buoyed support for the opposition.

Ba was the candidate backed by outgoing President Macky Sall, who is stepping down amid a drop in popularity after two terms in office marred by economic hardship.

Faye was thrust into the centre of Senegalese politics more than a week after he was released from prison along with his mentor Ousmane Sonko, who was disqualified from standing in the election because of a defamation conviction.

He has not spoken publicly since he cast his vote. He owes much of his success to the backing of Sonko.

Faye and Sonko, two former tax inspectors, campaigned together under the slogan “Diomaye is Sonko”, promising to fight corruption and prioritise national economic interests.

Their message is particularly popular among young voters in a country where more than 60 percent of people are under 25 and struggle to find jobs.

A peaceful transition of power in Senegal would mark a boost for democracy in West Africa, where there have been eight military coups since 2020.

Some of the military rulers who seized power have cut ties with traditional power brokers in the region such as France and the United States, and turned instead to Russia for help in their fight against armed groups that operate in countries near Senegal.

Many hope the vote will bring stability and an economic boost to Senegal, which is set to start producing oil and gas this year.

“I am happy to see there is a wind of change,” Tall, who joined revellers during the night as supporters waved Senegalese flags, lit flares and blasted vuvuzelas, told the news agency Reuters.

“It is wonderful because democracy has won. Many thought it would not happen,” he said, only wishing to give his first name.

Earlier, Alioune Tine, founder of the think-tank Afrikajom Center and Amnesty International’s former regional director for West and Central Africa, said a victory for Faye is a good sign for democracy in Senegal.

“Democracy was sick with political violence, with state violence, with death,” Tine told Al Jazeera, referring to the political violence of the last few years. He added that Sonko being unable to contest elections further showed that democracy was ailing.

Official results are expected to be announced by the Dakar appeals court on Friday.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies