Over 6 million to vote in general election


More than 6 million Senegalese head to the polls on Sunday to elect 165 representatives in the national assembly.

"This election is very unique in the history of Senegal because, the party that wins the majority in parliament will likely produce the next president in 2019," said Ibrahima Kane of the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA).

With a population of 15.3 million people, Senegal has been enjoying relative peace and stability for over two decades but this election campaign has been particularly tense.

Opposition parties have alleged that about 55 billion West African Francs ($98 million) have been spent on the election, making it one of the most expensive ever.

"This is also the first time a former president is contesting as a member of parliament whilst another key candidate is in detention," said Kane.

Of the 47 political movements registered, the most important are the ruling Alliance for Republic Senegal (APR), the main opposition Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS) of former President Abdoulaye Wade, and the Manko Thakao opposition coalition of Dakar Mayor Khalifa Sall.

The current national assembly is dominated by "Benno Bokk Yakar", which means unity for one goal. It used to be a coalition of several parties loyal to the president. But things changed when Khalifa Sall and former Petroleum Minister Alassane Sall left the movement citing unfairness and injustice.

The ruling Alliance for the Republic (APR) has argued for continuity, requesting a majority in the House of Representatives to support the policies of President Macky Sall -- no relation to Dakar's mayor.

The main opposition Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS) of former President Abdoulaye Wade has campaigned on nostalgia and a return to past policies. The 91-year-old former president argues his democratic gains for the country have been reversed by the current government.

Meanwhile, the Manko Thakao opposition coalition supports Khalifa Sall, the mayor of the capital Dakar.

However, Sall is currently in jail and all attempts by his lawyers to have him released on bail have failed. His name remains on ballot papers as he seeks to become a member of parliament in Dakar.

Mayor Sall, once an ally of President Macky Sall, was arrested in March when he was charged for corruption and embezzlement.

He has denied the charges and his lawyers have said they are part of a ploy by the government to destroy his political ambition.

Meanwhile, the credibility of the elections commission has been challenged by several opposition parties.

Abraham Samakeh of the opposition PDS party told Anadolu Agency that they have overwhelming evidence of irregularities committed by the election body.

"In our strongholds, voting cards to most people have not been distributed yet. We have also intercepted thousands of voting cards from ruling party supporters[…]. But we are powerless," Samakeh said.

The elections commission has refuted the allegations.

Still, opposition party supporters battled with police in Dakar Tuesday over frustration with the process. Police fired tear gas and made several arrests.

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