By Sandrine Lemare-Boly
Tuesday 27th of March: The city of Dakar is usually a lively place. Yesterday, the atmosphere in the streets of the Senegalese capital was one of calm and serenity. Most of the shops were closed, street vendors had disappeared, administrations given their employees a day off, schools were closed… The Senegalese were enjoying what they had celebrated the day before: a power change (l’alternance).
On Sunday 25 March, ahead of the publication of official results for the second round of the presidential election, Abdoulaye Wade conceded defeat against his former Prime Minister Macky Sall.
The outgoing president congratulating his opponent on his victory is an positive symbol. Even more so as fears of a less condescending attitude on Wade’s part had been prompted throughout the campaign by late and suspicious reforms (such as the constitutional change on a third presidential term).
As votes were being counted, did Adboulaye Wade remember his own winning days of 2000? He was then the public face of “Sopi” (power change, in Wolof), and the outgoing incumbent, Abdou Diouf, had offered his congratulations before publication of official results.
This is 2012, and Abdoulaye Wade has shown great awareness. In taking the early step of publicly acknowledging his defeat, he has prevented Senegal from shifting to a state of latent chaos.
Macky Sall won the presidential poll, but victory reaches further out to Senegalese society as a whole. Stall declared on Sunday: « Ballot boxes have produced a result, but the sole winner remains the Senegalese people ».
« I will be the president of all Senegalese people » he promised. « A new era is beginning for Senegal » . « The scale of this landslide victory has shown what huge expectations the people have in this country, and I take it all in. We are now ready to get down to work, in togetherness. » he concluded.
A set of pressing and challenging issues await the new president from the day he takes office: public finances are in tatters, 800,000 people are threatened with famine in the north of the country and living standards have been steadily falling of late due to high prices and a scarce supply of stable jobs. Expectations also run high on several issues of public concerns, such as consumer prices, an ongoing crisis in the education and health systems, youth unemployment, as well as street sanitation and power supply in cities.
The election of Macky Sall and the peaceful handover of power have generated much hope among the people. Whether Sall can rise up to the challenge remains to be seen, but he is lucky enough to become head of state in a country that has shown accomplished democratic behaviour.
Written by Sandrine Lemare-Boly
Dakar, the 27th of March 2012