Senegal on Sunday
With Kenya's fascinating and tightly-contested August 8 general election taking up much of the SSA political bandwidth, it's easy to overlook the upcoming Senegalese legislative election scheduled for next Sunday (July 30).
Voters will elect 165 members of parliament and even though there are reports that the distribution of voter identity cards are behind schedule, the election is expected to run smoothly.
There are three key parties (essentially coalitions of smaller groups) and all have issues.
The Benno Bok Yakaar Coalition revolves around the current President, Macky Sall, who has been accused of using the security forces to intimidate his political opponents while attempting to use constitutional rulings to relax voting rules to the advantage of the BBY.
The BBY is campaigning heavily on the fact that the economy has ticked away nicely over the last few years, with growth rising to 6.7% last year, and on track to continue its upward trajectory to 7% by 2018. At the same time inflation has been comfortably below 2%. The government's Plan for an Emerging Senegal ticks all the standard boxes for economic development including infrastructure and industrial gains while fostering social inclusion. The PES has broad political support as well as IMF buy-in under a Policy Support Instrument where the Fund provides detailed advice on economic policy and scrutinises its implementation. The coalition is expected to maintain its overall majority but the real issue is whether the opposition can make serious gains ahead of the 2019 Presidential election.
The Coalition Gagnante Wattu Senegal is the main opposition party and includes the former President, Abdoulaye Wade, who at 91 has returned to the nation to stand for a seat in parliament. His impact and popularity are being closely watched to see if he has enough juice for another tilt at the Presidency in 2019 or, more likely, play a significant role in choosing the opposition candidate. He has been particularly vociferous in suggesting that the current administration poses a serious threat to Senegal's tradition of fair and peaceful elections.
Finally, the Coalition Mankoo Taxawu Senegal is led by the Mayor of Dakar, Khalifa Sall (no relation to the President). Mr Sall, who is particularly popular among the urban young, is currently in prison on charges of theft of around $2m of public funds. His supporters insist that the allegations are politically motivated and are pressing for his imminent release. A strong showing could would strengthen their case.