After Night of Confusion, Senegal Awaits Moment of Truth
More tallies from Sunday’s presidential election in Senegal trickle in Monday, as the nation awaits the official preliminary results.
The country was thrown into confusion Sunday night following premature declarations by both the ruling and opposition parties. It started at a joint press briefing by Idrissa Seck and Ousmane Sonko, the two main opposition candidates. Seck told journalists that runoff was inevitable, while Sonko blasted unnamed media outlets for ‘giving fake results to favor incumbent Macky Sall’.
About an hour later, the ruling party held a similar briefing led by the Prime Minister and head of President Macky Sall’s campaign, Mahammed Boun Abdallah Dionne. He declared that Sall had won with 57%, based on the tallies from the party’s agents at polling centers.
Under Senegal’s electoral code, only the electoral commission is allowed to declare election winners and losers.
In Dakar, activists have taken to the social media to blast the candidates for their premature declarations, accusing them of disrespecting the electoral code.
“Senegalese citizens are far ahead of their political leadership for sure. Hope the will of the people as expressed peacefully in the polls will prevail. The political outbidding we have been witnessing from the ruling party and the opposition alike is just unacceptable and should stop immediately,” Khaita Sylla of the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) wrote on Facebook.
Seydi Gassama, Amnesty International’s Senegal Director observed, “And if everyone: the candidates and their coalitions, the national and International Press, etc. will be able to proclaim results before the official organs empowered to do it… the peace and stability of the country have a prize. This price is not the police or gendarmerie forces but the meaning of the responsibilities of political actors and their love of the homeland.”
In another development, local journalists and media outlets have frowned at Seck and Sonko over fake results accusation. Souleymane Niang, a director at Groupe Futur Media (GFM) which was singled out by Sonko in a television interview, described the accusations as disrespectful and called on the two opposition leaders to stop fabricating reports just to tarnish the reputation of the media.
SYNPICS, the umbrella body representing media practitioners in Senegal issued a statement condemning the two opposition leaders and showing solidarity with the media outlets at the center of the accusations.
On radio and TV programs last night, journalists and talk-show hosts also condemned the accusations and showed solidarity with their colleagues.
Rights activists have also added their voice to the condemnation of attacks on journalists. Fatou Jagne, Article 19’s West Africa Director said “the Press plays an important role in the consolidation of democracy and the state of law.”
“In this crucial period, if political actors do not let it work freely and objectively, it will be difficult to have credible and objective information on the conclusion of the electoral process. Attacks against journalists are helping to increase the climate of tension and fear. Political actors and their activists must abstain from violent words and threats against journalists.”
Sonko singled out GFM, 2STV and international outlet Radio France International.
It is expected that the winner of the election will be known within the next 24 hours.
Meanwhile, some of Dakar’s bustling areas remain relatively quiet as people await preliminary results.
This article was updated at 1600 GMT.