Gambari Leads 120 ECOWAS Observers To Senegal’s Presidential Election

Professor Ibrahim Gambari, Nigeria’s former Foreign Minister, and United Nations Under-Secretary-General will lead a 120-member ECOWAS Election Observation Mission (EOM) to Senegal’s Presidential election rescheduled to the 24th of March 2024.

The Mission includes 14 Long-Term Observers (LTOs), who are experts in various fields, such as constitutional and electoral laws, election operations, conflict management and prevention, political analysis, gender and inclusivity, and the media.

They are being deployed this week and will be joined by 106 of their Short-Term colleagues from the 18th of March ahead of the crucial election featuring 19 presidential candidates, including one woman.

The short-term observers are drawn from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Electoral Commissions of the ECOWAS Member States, the ECOWAS Council of the Wise, the ECOWAS Parliament and Community Court of Justice, and Civil Society organizations in the region.

The EOM, which will support and monitor the electoral process to ensure best practices, will be supported by an ECOWAS Technical Team led by Ambassador Abdel-Fatau Musah, Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, and Mr. Serigne Ka, acting Head of the ECOWAS Electoral Assistance Division (EAD).

The President of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr Omar Alieu Touray, approved the deployment of the EOM to Senegal in line with Articles 12 to 14 of the regional Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance on support for member States holding elections.

Under Article 13 of the Supplementary Protocol, the Commission President had also deployed a pre-election fact-finding mission to Senegal from 26th November to 3rd December 2023. That Mission met with political stakeholders, including government officials, political parties, the National Electoral Commission, CENA, and non-state actors.

There are 7,033,854 registered voters from the country’s estimated population of 18,032,473, (49.4% females and 50.6% Males), slightly higher than the 6.7 million in the 2019 presidential election, which recorded about 66% voter turn-out when the outgoing President Macky Sall won reelection with 58% of the votes. Sall is not on the ballot for the 2024 election initially scheduled for the 25th of February 2024.

Senegal was among the first countries in sub-Saharan Africa to hold multi-party presidential elections in 1978 before the wave of democratic transition in the 1990s. For this year’s election, some 338,040 Senegalese were registered in the diaspora.

The country has continued to hold presidential and legislative elections, sometimes marked by political tensions, but without significant threats to the stability of the country’s institutions.

Electioneering started on Sunday, the 9th of March. Voting officially opens from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., in 15,633 polling units of the 6,341 polling centers spread across the country’s 14 regions, including the capital Dakar.

The 19 presidential candidates cleared by the Constitutional Council include Amadou Ba, former Prime Minister, veteran opposition leader Idrissa Seck, and former Dakar Mayor Khalifa Sall.

The only female candidate is entrepreneur Anta Babacar Ngom. The second, a gynecologist Rose Wardini withdrew from the race before the 24 March 2024 date was announced following allegations that she also has dual citizenship.

If none of the 19 candidates obtains an absolute majority of votes, there will be a run-off vote between the two frontrunners 15 days after the official declaration of the final results of the first round.

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