Africa Electoral Watch | Senegal 2024 - Presidential election post-electoral analysis

22 April 2024


On 29 March 2024, Senegal’s Constitutional Council announced the first-round victory of political opponent Bassirou Diomaye Faye, with 54.28% of the vote, against 35.79% for the ruling party’s candidate, Amadou Bâ.
On 29 March 2024, Senegal’s Constitutional Council announced the first-round victory of political opponent Bassirou Diomaye Faye, with 54.28% of the vote, against 35.79% for the ruling party’s candidate, Amadou Bâ. Diomaye Faye established himself as the anti-system and anti-imperialist candidate championing a break with the past, as well as coming to the aid of young people affected by rising unemployment and immigration. Against a backdrop of general mistrust of institutions and uncertainty following a turbulent election period, Diomaye Faye’s term of office began with two top priorities: promoting national reconciliation and reassuring international investors. Combating corruption, fighting inflation, reducing poverty, creating jobs and implementing tax reforms are some of the major challenges. Unsurprisingly, the president appointed Ousmane Sonko as Prime minister. On 5 April, he unveiled a streamlined cabinet of 25 ministers, drawn largely from the ranks of Pastef.  


- Pastef candidate Diomaye Faye won the presidential election in the first round, with 54.28% of the vote, becoming Senegal’s youngest president - World leaders hailed the smooth running of the elections, which strengthened the image of Senegalese democracy, despite an uncertain pre-electoral period - National sovereignty, local content, youth employment, the fight against inflation and the responsible management of natural resources are at the core of the new executive’s priorities - Investors remain wary of the new government,whose announced policy measures and lack of transparency about the government’s real ambitions to implement them are giving cause for concern - In the short term, the new government’s ability to implement these reforms will be limited by political and economic realities

A political wind of change

With a turnout of 61.30%, slightly lower than the previous poll in 2019, this presidential election nevertheless mobilised the masses. This was an important challenge in this election, which took place in a very special context, marked in particular by a shortened electoral campaign: two weeks instead of the 21 days stipulated by the electoral code, and the celebration of Ramadan. Released from prison ten days before the election, after eleven months in pre-trial detention, Pastef candidate Bassirou Diomaye Faye won the presidential election with a score of 54.28%, comfortably beating the establishment candidate, former Prime minister Amadou Bâ, chosen by outgoing President Macky Sall (35.79% of the vote). The other candidates obtained very low scores. Mamadou Dia, who came third, received just 2.8% of the vote. The former mayor of Dakar, Khalifa Sall, obtained a meagre 1.56%. He was the last candidate to cross the 1% threshold. Faye’s victory also reflects the break-up of the Benno Bokk Yakaar coalition, which failed to rally around its candidate Amadou Bâ. Already penalised by the presidential vote, the legacy of Macky Sall’s governance could take another blow at the next legislative elections, with persistent tensions within BBY. However, the bipolarisation of Senegal’s political landscape is likely to persist. Finally, the rejuvenation of Senegal’s political class and administration should be one of the main consequences of Bassirou Diomaye Faye’s victory.

A non-conformist government dominated by Pastef figures

Sonko’s government is made up of a majority of technocrats, most of whom have never held ministerial office. Ousmane Sonko and Diomaye Faye have chosen to entrust the implementation of their project to Pastef executives. They account for almost half of the new appointees. Birame Souleye Diop, the new minister of Energy, Petroleum and Mines, is one of the heavyweights of the patriot movement. Vice-president of Pastef and president of the parliamentary group of the Yewwi Askan Wi coalition, this ally of Sonko is considered to be one of the most moderate members of the party. His appointment to this position, at a time when Senegal is preparing to become an oil and gas producer, marks the executive’s intent to retain direct oversight over issues relating to natural resources. Another iconic figure from the movement, Malick Ndiaye, Pastef’s Communications Secretary, becomes minister for Infrastructure and Land and Air Transport. At the head of Senegalese diplomacy is Yassine Fall, a former international civil servant and Pastef vice-president in charge of international relations. She is one of four women appointed to the government. Amadou Moustapha Ndieck Sarre, appointed minister for Vocational Training and Government Spokesperson, is another Pastef figurehead. To balance this government, the Faye-Sonko duo has also surrounded itself with individuals from aligned parties, such as the new minister of National Education, Moustapha Mamba Guirassy, a former minister under the Wade regime. His party «Sénégal en Tête» (SET) had backed the candidacies of Sonko and Faye. He was campaign director for the Diomaye Président coalition. Former supporters of the outgoing president have also joined this maverick government, including Serigne Guèye Diop, minister of Industry and Trade, who was Macky Sall’s adviser in charge of agriculture and industry. Sonko’s government team is also notable for its major absentees. Former prime minister Aminata Touré, former minister Habib Sy and MP and former minister Aïda Mbodj, fervent supporters of Diomaye Faye, were expected to be featured in the list of appointees. Wade’s Parti démocratique sénégalais (PDS), for its part, did not inherit any posts, despite its last-minute support for Pastef.



The private sector faced with uncertainty

While the return of political stability has had a positive impact on investor confidence, investors are still awaiting clarification on the new policies and the government’s ability to implement them. Regulatory issues for which further information is expected include local content, environmental regulations and tax reforms aimed at increasing state revenues. For the moment, the signals sent by the executive, sometimes favourable, occasionally hostile to investors, are fuelling the confusion. Particularly in the extractive sector, the announcement of audits of the mining, oil and gas sectors, a sign of the State’s ambition to exercise greater control over its natural resources, is causing tension and concern. These audits, the precise nature of which has yet to be announced, could cover several aspects: financial, to assess the additional costs of certain projects, and regulatory, to assess the proper application of certain Senegalese laws, in particular the law on local content. Another source of concern for the industry is the prospect of contract renegotiations. For the time being, it remains unclear whether the president intends to renegotiate contracts for projects already under way. Further delays in hydrocarbon production would jeopardise the country’s medium-term growth prospects, as well as the business of subcontractors.

Faye-Sonko: a sustainable governance model?

While the friendship between the two men, their ability to work together and their ideological alignment were key factors in Pastef’s electoral victory, the stakes and challenges have now reached a higher level. The two friends will have to face up to the pitfalls of the political world and avoid falling into the recurring pattern of competition and personal ambition. As the natural leader of Pastef, Sonko may fear losing his status under Faye’s leadership. Similarly, Senegal’s new president may no longer wish to remain in his mentor’s shadow. A split between Faye and Sonko would create uproar and further undermine the country’s political and economic stability.

Towards new legislative elections?

The current composition of the National Assembly, elected in July 2022, will prevent the new government from carrying out its most radical reforms. To counter this balance of power, the new president is likely to dissolve the National Assembly and call early legislative elections. However, he will have to wait until September, as Senegalese law stipulates that the National Assembly cannot be dissolved during the first two years of the legislature.

Revamping diplomatic relations

Diomaye Faye aims to pursue a policy of rebalancing international partnerships, particularly with Western powers such as France and the United States. The watchword: establish win-win collaborations. Senegal’s new head of State has already held talks with his French counterpart, who has stated his desire to intensify relations between the two countries. At regional level, strengthening integration efforts is one of his priorities. Diomaye Faye intends to give fresh impetus to reforms within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and to work towards reintegrating the three countries of the Alliance of Sahel States (Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso) into this body. This last ambition promises to be a challenge, given the depth of the ideological disagreements. However, a rapprochement between the two organisations could be within his reach.

Access to IMF financing

The IMF USD 1.8 billion financing programme, granted in June 2023 under the Extended Credit Facility, the Extended Fund Facility and the Resilience and Sustainability Facility, should not be called into question. The new government will likely align itself with the structural reforms agreed under the programme, in particular those aimed at strengthening tax administration and public financial management, as well as efforts to combat corruption. The next disbursement is scheduled for June.