Senegal’s Democratic ‘Exceptionalism’ Is Showing Cracks

Senegal’s Democratic ‘Exceptionalism’ Is Showing Cracks
A demonstrator holds a Senegalese flag as he kneels in front of a burning car during protests against the arrest of opposition leader and former presidential candidate Ousmane Sonko, Senegal, March 8, 2021 (AP photo by Leo Correa).

Dakar, Senegal—After a tense few days of waiting for the outcome of Senegal’s legislative elections held on July 31, the provisional results released last week showed that President Macky Sall’s coalition has lost its majority. The highly anticipated poll was regarded by many as a referendum on Sall’s tenure and a dry run for the 2024 presidential race, in which some expected Sall to seek a constitutionally prohibited third term.

According to Senegal’s vote-counting commission, Sall’s Alliance for the Republic coalition won 82 of the National Assembly’s 165 seats, a sharp drop from the 125 it won in 2017. The two main opposition coalitions, Liberate the People and Save Senegal, won 56 and 24 seats respectively.* The other three seats were split between smaller coalitions, potentially making them kingmakers in the makeup of a new Senegalese government.

This is the first time in Senegal’s post-independence history that an incumbent president will be forced to govern without a legislative majority. Sall has promised to appoint a new prime minister—a position he abolished in 2019 before reinstating it two years later—from the winning party of the elections, and the opposition now hopes the results will impose divided government in Senegal and potentially curb any ambitions Sall may have for the rumored third term.

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