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Senegal’s ruling coalition loses absolute majority in parliament

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Senegalese President Macky Sall’s coalition has lost its absolute majority in parliament but finished first in parliamentary polls by a narrow margin, preliminary results showed on Thursday.

It is the first time since the independence of the historically stable West African country in 1960 that the ruling party’s camp has lost that majority and will have to rely on other forces in parliament to pass legislation.

The president’s coalition, which includes his Alliance for the Republic (APR) party and other parties, won 82 seats out of 165 in the National Assembly, the national vote-counting committee said, down from the 125 it had in 2017 won.

Opposition parties had already gained momentum in January’s municipal elections, when they won major cities, including the capital Dakar, Ziguinchor in the south and Thies in the west.

In Sunday’s elections, they won a total of 80 seats in the unicameral parliament.

Three other seats were won by three small coalitions, who could serve as kingmakers.

The final figures will be published by the country’s highest court within five days of the announcement, if neither party appeals the results.

For Sall, who was accused by the opposition of wanting to break the two-term limit and run for president again in 2024, the disappointing legislative results could curb such ambitions.

The president, who was elected for seven years in 2012 and reelected for five years in 2019, has so far remained vague about his plans for the future.

However, he has promised to appoint a prime minister – a post he abolished in 2019 and reinstated in December 2021 – from the winning party in Sunday’s election.

conflicting claims

On Monday, both the opposition and Sall’s ruling coalition claimed to have won the vote.

The main opposition coalition, Yewwi Askan Wi (meaning “Free the People” in Wolof), had formed an election alliance with the Wallu Senegal (“Save Senegal”) coalition led by former President Abdoulaye Wade.

They won 56 and 24 seats respectively, it turned out on Thursday.

Earlier on Thursday, the opposition alliance asked the electoral commission to “verify the minutes (of polling stations) in order to comment and make possible claims within legal time limits”.

Aida Mbodj, another opposition leader, accused the government on Wednesday of having “sufficient ballot boxes” in the northern regions of Matam, Podor, Ranerou and Kanel, all strongholds for the president.

Yewwi Askan Wi’s top member, Ousmane Sonko, came third in the 2019 presidential election.

But he was prevented from taking part in Sunday’s vote due to a technical problem.

On Wednesday, he said the opposition “will not allow the victory to be confiscated”.

However, Sall said on Wednesday that the elections went smoothly, “in calm, serenity and transparency”.

Turnout was just under 47 percent, the national vote counting committee said.

International observers from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Elections Collective of Civil Society Organizations (COSCE) said the vote was peaceful and transparent.

‘Breathless’

Senegalese legislators are elected under a system that combines proportional representation with national lists for 53 legislators and majority voting in the country’s departments for 97 others.

The diaspora elects the remaining 15 MPs.

While the 21-day election campaign passed in a mostly peaceful atmosphere, the pre-campaign period was marked by violent demonstrations that killed at least three people.

Those followed a decision by the Interior Ministry – which was confirmed by the country’s highest court – to throw out the first-choice candidates submitted by Yewwi Askan Wi, on technical grounds.

The ban, which specifically applied to first-choice candidates for seats contested by national lists, prevented Sonko from participating.

“The ruling coalition is out of breath,” political analyst Maurice Soudieck Dione told AFP.

He said this was due to “high food costs, the rise in the price of water (and) the authoritarian practices surrounding the demonstrations, followed by deaths”.

(AFP)

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