Senegal’s 2024 Earthquake Presidential Election Outcome: A Preliminary Analysis

Left to right, Mame Boye Diao, Amadou Ba, Ousmane Sonko and Bassirou Diomaye Faye [AFP]

By: Professor Abdoulaye Saine

The presidential election outcome in Senegal, similar to Gambia’s 2016 Presidential election, is monumental—perhaps of earthquake proportions. Outgoing President Macky Sall and his then heir apparent, Amadou Ba, were sent packing and discredited, as were Yahya Jammeh and his underlings.

Senegal’s 2024 Presidential election outcome, as in Gambia in 2016, ushered in a new crop of mostly inexperienced class of politicians who must now get down to the very business of healing a divided nation, address Senega’s restive youth population, stem France’s stronghold on the country’s economy and politics, as well as tackle equity and poverty concerns in urban spaces. 
Will the Faye/Sonko duo repeat the Putin/Medvedev arrangement, as Faye keeps the presidential seat warm for a future Sonko Presidency? Alternatively, is Faye likely to emerge assertive while moving away decisively from under Sonko’s shadows? Only time will tell.

What is clear, however, is that Senegal’s democracy can no longer be characterized, as Professor Robert Fatton, Jr., did in his 1987 book: The Making of A Liberal Democracy: Senegal’s Passive Revolution (which I reviewed for Africa Today Journal) to describe the Senghore and Diouf Era. Today, Senegal’s democracy is more vibrant and dynamic than it ever was during the times of Presidents Senghore and Diouf. 
In fact, following decades of electoral practice- dating back to the colonial period, democracy in Senegal has consolidated typified by peaceful transfers of presidential power. Therefore, democracy in Senegal has been imbued with a new life of electoral activism and politics that promises transformative change. This is despite pre-election political violence and executive efforts to engineer the 2024 election outcome.
In a sense democracy triumphed despite, perhaps because of  Macky Sall’s repressive impulses and his futile efforts to remain in power. Senegal’s 2024 Presidential election, similar to Gambia’s in 2016, has renewed hope in the efficacy of democratic practices and dispels once more false arguments in support of recent military takeovers as the way forward in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger.
Though democracy in Senegal, as elsewhere, has been messy, violent, and at times prone to overbearing executive controls, Senegal’s electorate put these aside to send a strong and unequivocal “Reject” message to France, Sall’s political agenda and the status quo.
Closer to home, Gambia’s State House is likely to be in utter panic and shock, as President Barrow’s ally, and protector, President Sall, and his Party have been sent packing. Palpable panic in Barrow’s National People’s Party (NPP), is also to be expected in light of the looming 2026 Presidential elections in Gambia.
Both President Barrow and his ruling National People’s Party (NPP) have their work cut out for them in the lead-up to the 2026 Presidential polls. Priority must be given to: deepening political reforms that culminate in implementation of TRRC Recommendations and a new Constitution that includes a permanent ban on FGM/C. Bringing Jammeh to justice while being seen to address soaring crime rates, galloping inflation could augur well for re-election in 2026
Failure to address these burning national grievances and concerns will undoubtedly provide enough ammunition as an organizing tool and a rallying cry for a splintered opposition. Add to this the youth dilemma and women’s concerns that could swing the vote in the opposition’s favor. This is not an insurmountable feat, as the PASTEF victory in Senegal clearly shows.
President-elect Faye faces many daunting challenges, nonetheless- both domestic and foreign. He must address head-on the Casamance debacle and bring a peaceful resolution to it. Failure to do so could fuel accusations of him and Sonko being sympathetic to the MFDC.
The new PASTEF Government must similarly push its Pan-African agenda, a pivotal plank of its campaign to the presidency, regionally, in a drive to engender greater regional unity while supporting international and continent-wide efforts to nudge Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger in a more democratic direction. 
A foreign policy pivot by Senegal to deepen Senegal-Gambia relations, beyond political platitudes, is imperative. President-elect Faye must explore with Gambia robust strategies for greater political and economic unity through a revived, enhanced, Senegal-Gambia Confederation, as a basis for a Greater Senegambia. Further, Gambia’s odd location in the heart of Senegal makes talks for political and economic integration all the more urgent- all in furtherance of regional unity and integration.
President-elect Faye’s victory, in the end, is riding on high expectations, especially among youth and the poor in Senegal. Reforms to re-orient the economy to meet social, and economic needs of of the historically marginalized in Senegal, are primary, with employment and vocational training for young people a close second. This is just as true in Gambia- calling for a coordinated effort to bring to a stop the perilous “Backway Option.” 
Accordingly, the new Faye Government represents hope and a dream- come-true for “change,” amongst generations of Senegalese left behind for years by successive governments beholden to foreign interests. International and domestic goodwill and support for genuine reform must not be squandered.
(Professor Abdoulaye Saine is an author, researcher, and public intellectual who has written widely on governance, elections, civil-military relations, and human rights issues. The views expressed are his own and do not represent the position of Executive Director of The Nyang-Sanneh Institute for Social Research and Justice, The Gambia).

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