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Senegal’s Former PM Ba Concedes Defeat in Presidential Election

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Senegal’s former Prime Minister Amadou Ba has congratulated rival opposition candidate Bassirou Diomaye Faye for winning the presidential election.

Results trickling in since polls closed on Sunday evening in the first round of a delayed presidential election suggested Faye, 44, may have clinched an outright majority. The trends announced on local media sparked street celebrations by his supporters in the capital Dakar.

Ruling coalition candidate Ba, 62, initially called these celebrations premature and said a run-off vote would be needed to determine the winner.

But he then called Faye on Monday 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 opposition candidate  Faye as his successor on Monday, 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.

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, have 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.

The electoral commission has not yet communicated on the tallies counted so far out of 15,633 voting stations.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

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