Senegal election result: Basirou Diomaye Fay will become Africa’s youngest president
Senegal election result: Basirou Diomaye Fay will become Africa’s youngest president

Image caption,

“Politics never crossed my mind,” says the publican and husband of two wives

Few had heard of him a year ago, and now he will become president.

Bassirou Diomaye Faye’s extraordinary rise ends a roller-coaster period in Senegalese politics that caught many off guard.

Months in prison alongside ally and kingmaker Usman Sonko came to an abrupt end, with the pair released a week before the presidential election.

Now Mr. Chist, as he is nicknamed, must tackle the sweeping reforms he has promised.

“Methodical” and “humble” are words often used to describe the publican, who celebrates his 44th birthday on Monday.

Mr Fay fondly remembers his rural upbringing in Ndiaganiao, where he says he returned every Sunday to work the land.

His love and respect for village life is combined with his deep distrust of Senegal’s elite and power politics.

“He’s never been a minister and he’s never been a statesman, so critics question his lack of experience,” analyst Aliun Tine told the BBC.

“But from Fay’s point of view, the insiders who have run the country since 1960 have made some catastrophic failures.”

Fighting poverty, injustice and corruption are high on Mr Fay’s agenda. While working at the Ministry of Finance, he and Mr Sonko set up a trade union task force to tackle bribery.

Gas, oil, fishing and defense deals must be negotiated to better serve the Senegalese people, Mr Fay says.

He was ushering in an era of “sovereignty” and “rupture” as opposed to more of the same, he told voters, and that was especially true of ties with France.

Senegal’s president-elect says he will abandon the much-criticized CFA franc currency, which is pegged to the euro and backed by former colonial power France.

Mr Fay wants to replace it with a new Senegalese or regional West African currency, although this will not be easy.

“He will have to deal with the reality of the budget to begin with… But I can see he has a lot of ambition,” former prime minister Aminata Toure, who was under outgoing president Macky Sall, told the BBC.

Strengthening judicial independence and creating jobs for Senegal’s large youth population are also key priorities for Mr Fay – neither of which “President Sall paid much attention to and it caught up with him”, Ms Touré added.

She is not the only political heavyweight to endorse the 44-year-old – former president Abdoulaye Wade did the same just two days before Sunday’s vote.

It is a remarkable turnaround for Mr Fay, who has spent the past 11 months in prison on sedition charges and many years before that in the shadow of his ally.

Basiru Diomaye Faye was announced in February as the so-called “Plan B” candidate, replacing charismatic opposition figure Ousmane Sonko. “I would even say he has more integrity than me,” Mr Sonko said proudly.

Both are founders of the now-disbanded Pastef party, both are publicans, and both men ended up in jail last year on what they say are politically motivated charges.

Mr Sonko was eventually convicted of two offences, which meant he was barred from the election, so Mr Fay intervened.

“Basiru is me,” Mr Sonko told supporters recently. “They are two sides of the same coin,” agrees Pastef colleague Mustafa Sare.

This has led to criticism that Mr Fay is simply “president by default”.

Not so, says analyst Mr. Tine. But the couple’s relationship can lead to a new leadership style.

“Perhaps they will create a tandem and break away from the hyper-presidential model of an all-powerful head of state.

“Sonko is of course the undisputed leader of Pastef – an icon, even… [But] they both had a [dynamic of] complicity and collusion’.

Once upon a time, Mr. Fay wanted nothing to do with politics. “It never crossed my mind,” he said in 2019 while reminiscing about his childhood.

One of Mr Fay’s heroes is the late Senegalese historian Cheikh Anta Diop – whose work is considered a precursor to Afrocentrism. Both consider themselves leftist cheerleaders for Pan-Africanism.

When the first results were released on Monday showing that Mr. Fay was on course for victory, people in the capital, Dakar, celebrated with car horns and loud music.

The reaction in international markets was less jubilant, with Senegal’s dollar-denominated bonds falling to their lowest level in five months. Reuters news agency reports that investors are concerned that Mr Fai’s presidency could reverse the country’s business-friendly policies.

The election was originally due to be held last month, but Mr. Sall postponed it just hours before campaigning began, sparking deadly opposition protests and a democratic crisis.

Most candidates had very little time to prepare once the new election date was set – but Mr Fay had just over a week after being released from prison.

Despite the shortened campaign period, Senegalese citizens were determined to turn out and use their voices, Christopher Fomuño of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs told BBC Newsday.

“Senegal is in the process of confirming that democracies can self-correct and emerge stronger and more resilient.

And the real test for Senegal’s sweeper has only just begun.

More on the elections in Senegal:

By admin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *