Africa

Q&A: Senegal legislative elections

People walk past a hoarding bearing the portrait of a candidate for the Senegalese legislative elections in Dakar Image copyright AFP
Image caption Twenty-four parties and coalitions will take part in the elections

The West African state of Senegal will hold legislative elections on 1 July to vote for members of the National Assembly, four months after a new president was elected to end 12 years under Abdoulaye Wade.

The elections were originally set for 17 June but President Macky Sall pushed them to 1 July saying more time was needed to file the electoral lists.

What is at stake?

With the poll coming four months after the election of President Sall, media sources say they "mark the first popularity test" for the Senegalese leader.

Mr Sall's governing coalition, Benno Bokk Yakaar (United in Hope), is being seen as the favourite to win.

AFP news agency reported that the alliance has said "its goal is to beat the 65.8% of the vote President Sall won in the run-off giving it a comfortable majority to push through its agenda.

Mr Sall has expressed similar sentiments. The Paris-based Jeune Afrique newsmagazine quoted him as saying on 24 June that his "only objective is... to obtain the majority in parliament, which would be the logical continuation of the confidence that the Senegalese reposed in me on 25 March. A president without a parliamentary majority does not have the possibility of ruling," he said.

A triumph of the pro-Sall coalition would end the parliamentary dominance of Mr Wade's Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS).

How does the system work?

The Independent National Electoral Commission (Cena) is the body tasked with managing the poll but the Constitutional Council announces the final results and is the final authority on elections.

The electoral system is a mixture of the first-past-the-post and proportional representation systems.

Voters will directly elect 90 out of the 150 seats up for contest for a renewable five-year mandate. The remaining 60 will be chosen from party lists.

Some 7,200 candidates have been cleared to contest and they include Jean-Marie Francois Biagui, a former member of the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC), which is fighting for the independence of southern Senegal.

Some five million voters, out of a population of 13 million, were registered ahead of the presidential elections. They will also participate in the legislative elections.

Official campaigns took place between 10-29 June but it is unclear when official results will be announced.

Who are the main players?

Twenty-four parties and coalitions were cleared to contest.

The main battle is expected to be between Mr Sall's "Benno Bokk Yakaar" (United in Hope) coalition and the rival "Benno Bokk Guis Guis" (United for Common Vision) alliance led by Pape Diop, the current Senate president, according to the privately-owned Sud Quotidien newspaper.

The latter coalition includes the Speaker of the National Assembly, Mamadou Seck, and Ousmane Ndiaye Masseck, the chairman of the Economic and Social Council (CES). Both coalitions have nominated parties across the country's 45 departments.

Also contesting is the PDS, which Sud Quotidien said would act as a "spoilsport". The PDS has accused the government of "harassing" its members ahead of the elections but the party's coordinator, Omar Sarr, has said that "there is a renewal of the PDS's political management" and it is ready for the elections.

What happened last time?

Senegal last held legislative elections in 2007, which were won by Mr Wade's Sopi (Change) coalition. The alliance won 131 out of the 150 seats in a poll boycotted by the opposition.

What are the main issues?

Corruption

An ongoing anti-graft campaign launched by the government has unnerved the political elite both in and out of government.

Former Interior Minister Ousmane Ngom was briefly arrested and questioned on 20 June over the source of his wealth. Dignitaries close to the former government, including the current president of the Senate, Pape Diop, as well as ex-President Wade's son, Karim, have also been questioned over their wealth.

Mr Wade himself has not been left untouched as the state seeks to establish the origins of several cars bought for his use while in office. The new government has set up a special court to recover any stolen funds and assets as well as to pursue any embezzlers. Western nations and the UN have been asked to help in the recovery efforts.

On 8 May President Sall declared his assets in "an effort to improve transparency". Mr Wade's PDS says the government is "using the audits to intimidate and harass members of the party ahead of the elections".

The former president threatened on 7 June to disrupt the elections if the probes are not stopped. President Mall reacted saying: "Nobody can prevent the holding of the legislative elections".

President Sall had on 5 June said that members of the former regime "who have done nothing wrong must be calm because nothing would happen to them. We are not a banana republic".

He justified the audits saying they had been started by his predecessor "but were suspended for unknown reasons". (According to AFP, "many former ministers live in lush villas and have assets which can not be explained by their monthly salaries".

Socio-economic challenges:

A report published on 20 May by the Paris-based Jeune Afrique newsmagazine said the "biggest task" facing the Sall government is the resolution of various socioeconomic challenges. These include the budget deficit, that is expected to grow to 6.4% from 5.6%, according to the IMF. Exports to neighbouring Mali, Senegal's biggest trading partner, are another issue as they are expected to decline due to the rebellion in that country. The economy is also expected to suffer from the drought in northern Senegal and rising commodity prices.

Is there concern about security?

The campaigning has been peaceful with no major incidents of violence. However, the PDS has alleged there has been "intimidation" of its supporters and candidates by the authorities.

To ensure adequate security, the Interior Ministry has banned the carrying of arms between 12 June-12 July.

What about the media?

The electioneering has been covered extensively by the local media - both state and privately-owned. Under the electoral code, the state-owned media is required to afford equal coverage to all parties.

On 8 June, the National Broadcasting Regulation Board (CNRA) allocated air time to contesting parties and coalitions on the national broadcaster, Radio Television Senegalaise (RTS).

The RTS TV director, Gnagna Sidibe, said "all the necessary means had been taken for a successful coverage of the campaign". The CNRA has asked the media to "show responsibility" towards peaceful elections.

BBC Monitoringselects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad. For more reports from BBC Monitoring,click here

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