Osman Sonko’s Victory in Senegal


Anti-System Opposition Party Wins Senegal Elections

Africa enthusiasts were fixated on the elections in Senegal last week. The country of 18 million people, which prides itself on being West Africa’s strongest democracy, faced a serious crisis when the elections scheduled for February 25 were unexpectedly postponed, the people took to the streets, and eventually the Constitutional Council (supreme court) ruled that President Macky Sall would not be able to stay in office after April 2, when his term was due to expire, forcing the government to step back, and accordingly elections were held on March 24.

Leftist, panafricanist, anti-system opposition candidate wins

In tense elections held under the above conditions, the opposition candidate won the first round with 54 percent of the vote. The candidate of the ruling coalition led by Macky Sall, former prime minister Amadou Ba, failed to exceed 36 percent. This opposition party (PASTEF – Senegalese Patriots for Work, Morality and Fraternity) is not your traditional opposition organization. It claims that the current system is rotten, that it will put an end to corruption and injustice, that it will stand up to the political elite class, and that it will make Senegal fully sovereign. The party’s main strength is its mobilization of the youth. It follows a Panafricanist and leftist line. It is described as a party of change, of break with the status quo and of separation. I imagine you are now wondering how such a Party survived in Senegal and was not shut down. Of course, PASTEF was shut down in the summer of 2023 due to its “attacks on public order”. Its leader Osman Sonko was sentenced to prison for “calling for an uprising”. During demonstrations organized by Sonko’s supporters to protest against the verdicts, 14 young people were killed in one incident and 16 in another.

From prison to the presidency: Basiru Diomay Faye

Osman Sonko is the country’s most popular popular opposition politician, widely known abroad as the founder and leader of the political formation that has most unsettled the coalition led by President Macky Sall, who has been in power for 12 years. When he was blocked from running for president because of a prison sentence against him, the party was able to participate in the elections by nominating Basirou Diomay Faye, the number two leader of PASTEF and Sonko’s close comrade.

Both Osman Sonko and his comrade Basirou Diomay Faye were released from prison, thanks to the political amnesty law that Macky Sall issued in an attempt to postpone the elections. In the last 10 days, as founder of PASTEF and presidential candidate, they participated in the election campaign in person, making victory possible. It is the first time in the country’s 60-year political history that an opposition candidate has won in the first round. Basiru Diomay Faye, a humble 44-year-old customs inspector who was in jail 3 weeks ago, was sworn in as president on April 2 after a ceremony attended by heads of state from the region.

Companies with investments in Senegal are worried

Following the electoral victory of the opposition, foreign investors in Senegal (France being the largest investor) are worried and concerned. Will oil and gas investments suffer? Will foreign investment, which has doubled in the last 10 years, be delayed? Will the criticized fisheries agreements signed with the European Union be canceled? Will France’s military base be closed down? The management of Tosyalı Holding, which has invested in iron and steel in Senegal after Algeria, is probably among the employers who are also worried and anxious.

Senegal is a reliable partner

In his first speech and handover ceremony after his election victory, Basiru Diomay Faye tried to reassure foreign capitalists. But he did not give carte blanche. He emphasized that Senegal was a reliable partner. If the economic agreements reached are win-win, if Senegal is treated as a respected partner in the contract, cooperation will continue. For example, I personally do not think that the huge energy investments that have been discovered offshore Mauritania and Senegal in recent years, which will turn both countries into exporters of liquefied natural gas by the end of this year, doubling their growth rates, will face obstacles under PASTEF. If there are unbalanced agreements in the fields of mining and fisheries, these will be reviewed, a middle ground will be found and the public will be satisfied.

The never-ending story : CFA Franc

One of the promises is to abolish the CFA franc, the common currency of the 8 francophone countries in the region. The central bank of this highly criticized currency is located in Dakar and its president is from Côte d’Ivoire. It is not possible to abandon the CFA franc in the short and medium term. Because the use of a common currency works for the 8 countries, removes the burden of foreign exchange and supports foreign trade. It will only be abolished when it is replaced by a better common currency. If the “ECO”, which is designed to be the common currency among the countries of ECOWAS (the 15-member West African regional organization), is put into circulation in the future, God willing, the CFA franc will naturally expire. The CFA franc has been criticized for decades as a political rebellion against the former colonizer, promised to be abolished during election campaigns, but this difficult, delicate and technical project has never been realized. Let me take this opportunity to emphasize that I see the chances of PASTEF abolishing the “colonial currency” within 4 years as close to zero.

Can two best friends fall out?

Basiru Diomay Faye’s job seems difficult in two ways. First, he does not have a parliamentary majority. We will watch how he will convince the parliamentary majority for reforms. Is there a possibility of early parliamentary elections? We may see it towards the end of the year. Second, he needs to maintain good relations with Osman Sonko, the founder and charismatic leader of PASTEF. Immediately after taking over, Basiru Diomay Faye announced the appointment of Osman Sonko as prime minister. In Senegal, there are often problems between the president and the prime minister, the prime minister is often changed, so I don’t know how attractive this seat is for Osman Sonko. Sonko, the main owner of the party and the electoral victory, will remain at the head of the party organization. My hope is that the two, who have become the hope of the country, will stay on good terms. Since a country cannot have two presidents…

Senegal’s democracy proved its mettle

The peaceful March 2024 elections proved that the tradition of democracy is indeed strong in Senegal. The chaos caused by Macky Sall’s postponement of the elections came to an end. The stumbling democratic process has picked itself up from where it had fallen, with voters calmly going to the polls after a month’s delay, the surprise victory of the opposition and the unchallenged acceptance of the election results; it will continue its run with a stronger pace. Godspeed to democratic Senegal under PASTEF.

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