A week following the dark news of a military coup in Mali, Senegal’s presidential runoff is profoundly encouraging for African democrats. Incumbent president Abdoulaye Wade has conceded to, and congratulated, opposition candidate Macky Sall following the March 25 presidential runoff. The press reports that the elections were calm. Though election observers have yet to comment, based on press reports their findings are likely to be favorable.
Macky Sall, a long-time politician, campaigned on a platform of economic reform and improved service delivery. President Wade’s effort to manipulate the constitution so that he could run for a third term was widely resented and probably contributed to Sall’s victory.
Senegal is relatively close to Europe and to the U.S. With its splendid beaches, its elegant capital city of Dakar, and its fame as the home of supermodels, the country is popular with Western, especially European tourists. Yet, it shares many or most of the developmental challenges of its neighbors and also has some that are largely unique. For example, there is an informal mining sector with few protections for workers that serves as a magnet for workers from its poorer neighbors. Dakar was designed by the French to be the capital of its enormous empire, French West Africa, rather than of a relatively small state.
Yet, ever since independence in 1960, Senegal has chosen the democratic approach to its politics, and it has never been disfigured by a military coup. The presidential elections of 2012 show that fifty-one years of credible elections and strengthening political institutions has deeply rooted a democratic culture.