Campaigning starts for Senegal’s March 24 presidential voteSat, 09 Mar 2024 19:53:20 GMT

Campaigning got underway Saturday for Senegal’s March 24 presidential election, after weeks of turmoil caused by its delay, as one of the leading contenders met voters.Khalifa Sall, a former mayor of Dakar, toured different neighbourhoods of the capital in the evening, greeting several hundreds of his supporters.Of the 19 presidential candidates, he is seen as one of the main contenders to succeed President Macky Sall, who is not standing for re-election.The vote was due to take place on February 25 but Sall plunged the country — usually a beacon of stability in a region fraught with military coups — into its worst crisis in years on February 3 by postponing the election, just before campaigning was due to begin.That sparked street protests that left four people dead and international condemnation, while opponents accused Macky Sall of trying to remain in power beyond the scheduled end of his term on April 2.Several hundred supporters of Khalifa Sall, who is not related to the outgoing president, waited for his arrival in a festive mood, singing and playing music, and cheered him upon his arrival.The coalition of anti-establishment candidate Bassirou Diomaye Faye, who is currently behind bars but hoping to benefit from an amnesty law that would allow her to stand, was also due to begin a campaign caravan on Saturday and present its programme to the press.Amadou Ba, the candidate picked to represent the outgoing president’s camp, was due to meet with his campaign team on Saturday.Earlier, he met with Sidiki Kaba, who succeeded Ba as prime minister after he resigned on Wednesday to allow him to campaign for the presidency.The fight to restore an election programme in the last few weeks spoke of the attachment to democracy in a country of 18 million people that is among the lowest 30 in the world for human development, according to the United Nations.The campaign season will be limited to two weeks rather than the usual three weeks due to the need to find a successor before Macky Sall’s tenure is up next month.Campaigning will largely take place during the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan in a country that is majority Muslim.Many electors have told AFP about their eagerness to vote and turn the page on the turbulence of recent weeks.