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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Senegal election results uncertain as police uncover polling threats

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As seven million Senegalese go to the polls on Sunday, the Police have identified the social media and candidates who insist their supporters remain at polling units to guard their votes, as the most likely source of security breach during the elections.

Although Senegal is generally considered one of the safest places in the sub-region, a police commissioner and the head of planning and operations of the national police, Omar Mbaye, said there are no absolutes when it comes to matters of security especially with elections happening after such a tense period in the country.


Mr. Mbaye who was giving a security assessment of the possible threats to the smooth conduct of the polls to members of the ECOWAS election observer group in Dakar, added that other likely threats might come in connection with the disenfranchised 700,000 voters, who for some reasons were not captured by the voter register, and from elements of the rebel groups which operate sporadically on secondary roads at night.

He said the trouble spots were usually border towns in the south of the country and although members of the armed forces have been deployed to patrol the areas it is safer to avoid such roads after dark.

Commissioner of Police Omar Mbaye speaking on the security situation in Senegal before tomorrow’s elections


The Police Commissioner also rued the recent change in the nature of demonstrations in Senegal which has turned increasingly violent, with damage to property and loss of lives, as another cause for concern.

He said what used to be a few dozen people chanting slogans and holding placards had of recent taken the shape of almost a guerrilla warfare with massive crowd brutalising people and burning down businesses and buildings leading to loss of lives.

According to the police chief, although the deplorable situation was recently ameliorated by the release of political detainees on 14 March, misinformation from social media, especially “a new phenomenon where people make live broadcasts misrepresenting events at polling stations” may yet ignite violence.

Commissioner Mbaye pointed out that another recent development where political parties in Senegal have taken to bussing their supporters to polling units may cause friction when opponents confuse such people for illegal voters imported to rig elections.


The commissioner, who said he was quite confident of the ability of the security agencies to contain any situation that may arise, said the police has deployed over 10,000 police officers across the country to ensure the safety of lives and guarantee free and safe elections.

He said as part of its operational guidelines, the security forces have secured the national borders to avoid the “importation” of foreigners from neighbouring countries to interfere with the voting process.

He estimated that the most difficult period would probably be after the declaration of results when any of the two candidates expected to lead the pack fails to secure the expected votes.

Too Close to Call In Senegal

There is no clear front-runner in Sunday’s polls and the presidential election is generally expected to go into a run off. According to the laws, if no candidate was able to get a clear majority or more than 50 per cent of the votes, a run-off will take place one month after, following the departure of President Macky Salls whose term ends on April 2.

ALSO READ: Gambari hails Senegal for choosing democracy, insists failure not an option

The nation’s constitution stipulates that in that event the Speaker of the parliament, Amadou Mame Dipo, would act as interim president of the federation.

It would be recalled that in the last parliamentary election, no party won an outright majority, which was a radical departure from the past.

Tomorrow’s election, which has 19 people on the ballot, including the sole woman, Anta Babacar Ngom, is in reality a contest between the incumbent president’s preferred candidate and former Prime Minister, Amadou Ba, 62, of the ruling Bennita Yakaar Party, and Bassirou Diomaye Faye of PASTEF.

Mr Faye was recently released from prison after nearly one year of detention without trial for public incitement.

Part of his radical campaign message includes the promise to replace French-backed West African currency, CFA, and the renegotiation of previous oil and gas contracts.

He rides on the support of Senegal’s foremost opposition figure, Ousmane Sonko who has been barred from contesting the elections and has therefore galvanized votes for Mr Faye.


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