what happened last week - Senegal Elections: The Basics



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Hey, this is Sham Jaff, your very own news curator from the "Global South". Each week, I highlight some of the biggest stories from regions and countries that are historically underreported in Western media. My goal is to burst our Western-centric bubbles, and expand the view we hold of the world we share with one another. Questions, comments, concerns? You can reach me anytime by replying to this mail. And if this newsletter was forwarded to you, you can sign up at whathappenedlastweek.com

Today in the newsletter: Issue #373 brings you some good news from Senegal. The much-awaited elections finally took place, where it's expected to be a close call between two generations. I'm giving you some of the What and the Why, so you can flex in front of your colleagues and first date this week.

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Here's your guide to the super important elections in Senegal

 
What happened
Yesterday, people in Senegal voted to elect the next president. When I finalized this issue yesterday, it was not announced who had won. But because you're a whlw reader, you should know the what and the who, so you can contextualize the results when they do get announced.

Why this matters
It was an election that almost didn't happen and that got everyone worried about stability in this West African nation. BBC News' West Africa correspondent Mayeni Jones explains why. For starters, the country has never delayed elections before, never had a coup (in a region where coups are deemed almost 'normal') and rightly considers itself to be a paragon of West African democracy. Some seven million people in Senegal and in the diaspora were eligible to vote yesterday.

Tell me more
To catch you up, now-President Macky Sall really wanted to hold onto power last year as he approached his second term in office. He almost went in for a third time, but widespread protests and the 'international community' (I'm having some trouble with this term, but I trust you know what I mean by it) made him stick to the plan and step down as per constitution. Then there was the whole dilemma with a very popular politician from the opposition, Ousmane Sonko, who was in and out of prison, facing multiple criminal charges that he claims are politically motivated. One of those charges stuck, and he was disqualified from running for office. Widespread protests again, a brutal crackdown by security forces, several people died. And then, last month, Sall announced that he would postpone the elections, due in February, until December, giving him an extra eights months in power. He said, this was necessary to clear up some confusion about who could run for president. Nobody believed him, the Constitutional Court neither. So, he had to announce a new date real fast and chose March 24, giving candidates just 13 days to campaign, and he promised to step down on April 2, no matter what happens on Election Day. Phew.

What are some main issues?
The economy. The economy is growing, but more than 36 percent of people live in poverty. Nearly a third of young people are out of work. Because there's a lack of viable alternatives for the future, many people believe it's time to leave. Some for Europe, others for Central America.

Who were the front-runners?
Technically, 19 people; one of them a woman. But ultimately, only two candidates were really likely to win the vote: Amadou Ba (62), a former prime minister from the ruling party and Bassirou Diomaye Faye (44), who is leading the opposition Pastef party (basically, the stand-in for Sonko; Faye was also arrested like Sonko on similar charges; both were released this month). Ba stands for continuity. 'Sall's done pretty well with infrastructure projects. Look, we even have a new international airport and a rail system!' say his supporters. And Faye? His Pastef party has some ambitious goals such as replacing the CFA Franc (France is shaking reading this) with a national currency. Faye is pretty young; that might be a good or a bad thing. Bakary Demba Sy for The Continent writes that it might be a bad thing. Ba and Faye both had very little time to try and convince citizens to vote for them, so voter turnout is likely to be key to the result. If it's undecided (meaning, no candidate gets more than 50%), there'll be a run-off election, but it's unclear when. 

Hey, thanks for reading.

You're reading the Free version of this newsletter. As a VIP Member, you get an 80% longer email, covering many, many more countries in one email. Since I am completely self-funded and have no sponsorships, I rely on your financial support 100% to keep this newsletter going.

The rest of Issue #373 brings you some good news from The Philippines. An extremely violent group that is responsible for kidnappings, suicide bombings and more, is on its way out. Plus, hand-picked recommendations that introduce you to an Armenian-Egyptian photographer that captured "Arab Hollywood's" biggest stars, a mini-series about feudal Japan and what it does to Western orientalist attitudes and India's most famous and recognizable voice in radio. Last week, an Iranian superstar died, and I'm paying tribute by sharing one of my favorite songs with you. Plus, news from 15+ other countries from the "Global South" to keep you updated (because, let's be honest, where else will you get this summary?).


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