Politics in Senegal has always been largely driven by personalities and personal rivalries. Campaigning for the upcoming presidential vote has proved to be no different, with opposition candidates busy pushing their individual presidential claims.

Thirteen candidates will compete against Abdoulaye Wade, Senegal’s incumbent president, in elections on Sunday. The opposition?s failure to unite behind a single candidate has severely diminished their chances of challenging Wade at the polls.

The presence of so many rival claimants in the fray has meant there is no frontrunner opposition candidate. Here is a look at three prominent ones:

Idrissa Seck was once considered President Wade’s protege [EPA]
Having served as Wade?s election campaign director and prime minister between 2002-2004.

Seck became a leading member of the opposition after he fell out with Wade. In late 2006, he formed the Rewmi party (‘the country’ in Wolof) and ran in the 2007 presidential election, coming second with 14.92 per cent of the vote.

Besides being the Mayor of Thies, he is the youngest of the prominent candidates and is likely to attract votes from the youth.

However, with the opposition failing to agree on a single candidate, Seck is unlikely to draw enough votes to compete with Wade.

Another candidate to watch is Macky Sall, a member of the Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS). The 51 year old politician served as Senegal?s PM between April 2004 and June 2007 and was also the president of the National Assembly between June 2007 and November 2008.

Sall was Wade’s campaign director in 2007 [EPA]
He was also the director of Wade?s re-election campaign for the 2007 presidential elections.

Relations between Wade and Sall soured when the latter questioned the role of Karim Wade, the president?s son, in alleged irregularities concerning construction sites for Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) held in early 2008.

Wade loyalists viewed Sall’s move as a covert attempt to undermine Karim and bolster his chances of becoming the president.

After the fall-out, Sall formed his own party, the Alliance for the Republic (APR-Yakaar), to compete in the 2012 elections.

Another stalwart Senegalese politician, Ousmane Tanor Dieng, 65, is the first secretary of the Socialist Party and was appointed diplomatic adviser to Leopold Senghor, the country?s first president, in 1978.

In 2007 presidential polls, Dieng secured 14 per cent of the vote [EPA]
He continued in the same position during the Abdou Diouf presidency, until 1988. In 1993, he became the minister in charge of presidential services until 2000.

Dieng ran for president in 2007, and secured almost 14 per cent of the vote, after Wade and Idrissa Seck.

In 2011, Dieng and Moustapha Niasse formed the Beno Siggil Senegal in a bid to project one opposition candidate to challenge Wade, but when the coalition decided to back Niasse, Dieng withdrew. He said that it would have undermined the ?weight of the Socialist Party? to not compete for president especially after securing more than double the votes Niasse had received in 2007.

Dieng promises that this would be his last bid for the presidency.

Perhaps one candidate who could have made an impact in Sunday’s election is music legend Youssou N’Dour who has been blocked by the Constitutional Counsel from taking part in the elections. Once close to the president – he would sing for Mr Wade during official visits – Mr N’Dour fell out with him a few years ago over an article published in his paper.

It alleged that the president’s son, Karim Wade – a top minister in his father’s administration – had been arrested in Paris with a large sum of money.

Karim Wade, who it is believed is being groomed to take over from his father, sued the paper and won. Since then, the Senegalese president has tried to block the singer’s influence on various occasions – perhaps the most visible example being when he initially refused to grant him a license to start his TV station in 2010.

The singer then joined the many voices who forced President Wade to withdraw a bill last year that would have effectively scrapped run-off votes in future elections.

From: Senegal|Jefferson Sackey|Joy News 

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