Calm Tension: The Presidential Election in Senegal
The people of Senegal went to the polls Sunday, February 27, to elect a president. Violence erupted weeks before the poll when the Constitutional Court ruled in favor of President Abdoulaye Wade’s decision to run for a third term.
Abigail Wilson, IFES deputy director for Africa, visited polling stations in Dakar and neighboring villages on Election Day. She answers some questions about the big day.
How was the mood on Election Day?
In general, the mood was calm and things were well organized. The poll workers, observers and security forces seemed to have a good understanding of their roles. In Dakar, the lines were pretty long and voters had to wait 30 to 60 minutes to vote. The rural polling places were much less crowded.
How was the turnout?
Unofficial reports state turnout was roughly 50 percent, which is less than previous elections. I heard that there were some elements of the ruling party driving around to polling places to do what is called “securing the vote.”
That means they were there to intimidate opposition party voters into not voting at all; hence the relatively low turnout.
Senegal had three EMBs handling the election. Was there any confusion at the polls?
Not really. They seemed to be coordinating their responsibilities and tasks, based on what I saw.
Some political parties called for the elections to be delayed. How was this resolved?
They did call for a delay, but this would have been against the electoral code. Besides, by the time the delay was requested, it was too late in the game to grind all election operations to a halt.
There was violence before the election. How was security on Election Day? Are there plans in place to mitigate expected violence when the results are announced?
There was limited violence on Election Day. Over the next few days, results will become evident. There may be protests over the results, especially if the ruling party does not come in first.
On Election Day, travel between districts was not allowed. And on the radio, people were asked to vote early, go home and avoid travel. These measures may continue.
When will results be announced?
Provisional results must be announced by Friday, March 2, and official results by March 5. However, I think we will have an idea as early as tomorrow about as to who the top candidates are and whether a run-off will be necessary.