DAKAR, Feb 2 (Reuters) – Senegal heads to the polls on Feb. 25 to choose a successor to President Macky Sall who is not seeking a third term.
For the first time in the West African nation’s history, the incumbent is not on the ballot. His handpicked successor, Prime Minister Amadou Ba, is among 20 candidates cleared by Senegal’s constitutional council to run.
To avoid a runoff, a candidate must secure over 50% of the vote. Campaigning starts on Feb. 4.
Following are profiles of the main contenders:
PRIME MINISTER AMADOU BA
A former economy and foreign minister, Ba, 62, was named prime minister in September 2022. He ran the taxation directorate before launching his political career.
Sall handpicked Ba as the ruling Benno Bokk Yakaar (BBY) coalition’s candidate after a party-wide consultation process. Sall said at the time that Ba would be a unifying figure.
But analysts say there are divisions within BBY, which lost key cities in the 2022 local elections and a number of seats in the 2023 legislative election. Some members worry that Ba has never contested a presidential election while most of his main opponents have.
EX-DAKAR MAYOR KHALIFA ABABACAR SALL
Sall, 68, unrelated to the president, served as mayor of the capital Dakar from 2009 to 2018.
One of President Sall’s chief political rivals, he was arrested in March 2017 on suspicion of embezzling about $3 million in public funds. In 2018, he was sentenced to five years in jail, preventing him from contesting the February 2019 presidential election.
President Sall pardoned him in September that year.
FORMER PRIME MINISTER IDRISSA SECK
Veteran politician Idrissa Seck, 64, served as prime minister from 2002 to 2004 in the Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS) under former President Abdoulaye Wade.
He was sacked over embezzlement allegations and spent some months in jail before his case was dismissed. In 2006, he founded his own party and challenged Wade in 2007, finishing second. He ran again in 2012 but did not make it to the second round.
Seck placed second in the 2019 presidential race with 21% of the vote, after which his Rewmi party joined the ruling BBY coalition with President Sall. He served as head of the Economic, Social and Environmental Council from November 2020 until April 2023.
ANTA BABACAR NGOM
Entrepreneur and a political newcomer Anta Babacar Ngom, 39, launched the Alternative for the Next Generation of Citizens (ARC) political movement in August 2023.
The daughter of the founding president of Sedima, a leading poultry production group in the West and Central Africa region, she was until recently executive director of the company, which also operates Senegal’s Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises.
FORMER PRIME MINISTER MAHAMMED BOUN ABDALLAH DIONNE
Dionne, 64, was President Sall’s third prime minister, from 2014 to 2019. He was seen as one of the frontrunners in the race to succeed Sall within the BBY coalition.
An early supporter and ally of Sall before he became president, Dionne held several positions during Sall’s two terms in office including chief of staff at the president’s office.
He announced his candidacy in September 2023 and launched his own coalition days after Sall selected Ba as the candidate for the ruling coalition.
FORMER MINISTER ALY NGOUILLE NDIAYE
Ndiaye, 59, is a former close ally of President Sall and top member of the BBY coalition. He left the coalition and resigned as minister and launched his own bid weeks after Ba was selected as the BBY candidate.
Ndiaye is mayor of the town of Linguere. A civil engineer and former bank executive, Ndiaye served as energy and interior minister before taking over the agriculture portfolio.
BASSIROU DIOMAYE FAYE
Bassirou Faye, a 43-year-old tax inspector, is running in place of jailed Senegalese opposition firebrand Ousmane Sonko who was disqualified over a defamation conviction.
Members of Sonko’s dissolved Pastef party and other parties formed a coalition and named Faye in November as a back-up candidate. Sonko later called for his supporters to vote for Faye.
Like Sonko, Faye is currently in detention, facing charges including defamation and contempt of court. He remains eligible because there has been no ruling yet against him.
Reporting by Anait Miridzhanian, Portia Crowe Editing by Bate Felix and Nick Macfie
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