Just eight days after a second-round runoff in which Macky Sall (above, right) defeated incumbent Abdoulaye Wade by nearly a two-to-one margin, Sall was sworn in hours ago as Senegal’s new president.
The inauguration is the culmination of a sometimes tumultuous campaign that threatened to explode into a constitutional crisis — Wade had opted to run for a controversial third term, notwithstanding a constitutional ban (passed earlier by Wade himself) limiting the president to two terms. Notwithstanding the fact that popular candidates were refused an opportunity to run and Senegalese police used force in putting down protests in advance of the first round of the vote (leading to up to six deaths), the peaceful transfer of power marks the second such transfer in 12 years and further strengthens Senegal’s democratic tradition — even as its neighboring Mali descends into post-coup confusion.
Notwithstanding the fact that Senegal’s opposition put all of its support behind Sall in the second round, Sall remains a creature of the Senegalese establishment and was Wade’s one-time right-hand man. With a stagnant economy, high food and electricity prices and moderate corruption, Sall’s inauguration alone — however much a victory for democratic legitimacy — will not be enough to meet the opposition’s fairly high expectations.
Politically, Sall’s first challenge will be to secure victory in Senegal’s June 17 parliamentary elections — Wade’s Parti Démocratique Sénégalais won the 2007 legislative elections, taking 131 of 150 seats, after opposition candidates boycotted Wade’s efforts to undermine free and fair elections.
One question is whether the popular singer Youssou N’Dour (above, left) — who attempted to run for president, but was not permitted by Wade’s government — will serve in Sall’s administration, as minister of culture or otherwise.
Sall’s first interview with the international media is here.
AllAfrica coverage of Senegal’s future here.