Senegal: Ruling coalition claims legislative election win

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The ruling coalition claimed victory in the legislative elections held Sunday in Senegal, a success already disputed by the opposition, which speaks of a "prefabricated majority".

"We won 30 departments" out of 46 in Senegal and constituencies abroad. "This undoubtedly gives us a majority in the National Assembly," head of the list of the presidential coalition, Aminata Toure said Sunday evening to the press.

"We have given a majority in the National Assembly to our coalition president, Macky Sall," added Ms. Touré, without giving the number of deputies obtained by her camp or specifying whether it is a relative or absolute majority. She acknowledged the defeat of her coalition in Dakar.

The reply to Ms. Touré was not long in coming from the opposition. An official of the coalition led by the main opponent Ousmane Sonko, Barthélémy Dias, spoke of "vulgar lies" and "prefabricated majority", on the private radio RFM.

"Cohabitation is inevitable. You have lost this election at the national level. We will not accept it. This fraud will not pass," added Mr. Dias, also mayor of Dakar, without giving a figure.

The opposition said it wanted to use these elections to impose a cohabitation on President Sall, who hopes to retain a large majority.

The legislative elections are a test after local elections in January, won by the opposition in major cities in this West African country known for its stability, such as Dakar, Ziguinchor (south) and Thies (west).

The single-round legislative elections are aimed at renewing the 165-seat unicameral parliament, which is largely controlled by the presidential camp, for five years.

Macky Sall has promised to appoint a prime minister - a position he abolished and reinstated in December 2021 - from the winning party.

Some seven million Senegalese were called to the polls, which took place without major incidents, with a national turnout of 22% as of 1:00 p.m. (local and GMT) on Sunday, according to the Ministry of the Interior.

- 22,000 observers -

"I hope (...) that there are no disputes. It's like soccer. There must be a winner and a loser," said Lamine Sylva, a 60-year-old painter, married with children.

"I hope that the future Assembly will be made up of deputies from the government and a strong representation of the opposition for contradictory debates," El Yahya Sall, a retired soldier, told AFP.

The autonomous National Electoral Commission (Cena), which is overseeing the vote, has deployed some 22,000 observers. Experts from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Francophonie are also present.

MPs are elected by a combination of proportional representation with national lists for 53 MPs, and majority voting in the departments for 97 others. The diaspora has 15 members.

Eight coalitions are competing in these elections, including those of the majority and "Yewwi Askan Wi" (Liberate the People in Wolof), the main opposition coalition, formed around Ousmane Sonko, who came third in the 2019 presidential election.

This coalition has joined forces with the coalition "Wallu Senegal" (Save Senegal in Wolof), led by former president Abdoulaye Wade. The least well placed in one department is committed to supporting the other to "impose a governmental cohabitation".

The election is taking place against a backdrop of rising prices, due in particular to the war in Ukraine, an argument used by the opposition against the government, which is highlighting its subsidies for petroleum products and foodstuffs as well as its infrastructure construction program.

- Third term? -

The opposition also wants to force Mr. Sall - who voted on Sunday morning in Fatick, 150 km southeast of Dakar - to give up any hope of running in 2024. President Sall, elected in 2012 for seven years and re-elected in 2019 for five years, is keeping his intentions vague with 19 months to go before the presidential election.

"If Macky Sall loses them (the legislative), he will no longer speak of a third term," said Sonko.

The pre-campaign had been marked by violent demonstrations that had left at least three dead because of the invalidation by the Constitutional Council of the national list of the coalition led by Mr. Sonko.

Several opposition figures, including Ousmane Sonko himself, were forced to withdraw from the elections, denouncing a ploy by the president to keep his opponents out.

On June 29, the opposition finally calmed things down by agreeing to participate in the elections, which they had previously threatened to prevent.

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