Young Opposition Candidate Wins Senegal’s Presidential Election

With the concession of his main rival, a young political outsider backed by a powerful opposition figure has won a surprise outright victory in Senegal’s presidential election only 10 days after being released from jail.

Bassirou Diomaye Faye is the anointed candidate of Senegal’s popular and controversial opposition politician Ousmane Sonko. Mr. Faye’s main rival, the governing party candidate Amadou Ba, conceded in a statement congratulating his rival on Monday.

Mr. Faye, who celebrated his 44th birthday on Monday, will become the West African country’s youngest ever president. He had been jailed on charges of defamation and contempt of court, and was awaiting trial.

“I wish him a lot of success, for the well-being of the Senegalese people,” Mr. Ba said in a statement released on Monday afternoon.

Mr. Faye and Mr. Sonko have captivated young people by excoriating political elites, pledging to renegotiate contracts with oil and gas companies, and promising “monetary sovereignty” — Senegal is one of 14 countries that uses the CFA, a currency pegged to the euro and backed by France.

Mr. Ba was backed by Senegal’s president, Macky Sall, who had served two terms and for years refused to say whether he would try for a third. Mr. Sall threw the country into chaos when he suddenly called off the election, which was supposed to happen in February, and then, almost as suddenly, changed course.

Residents of Dakar, Senegal’s coastal capital, began celebrating at 8 p.m. on Sunday, before many polling stations had even had a chance to count the contents of their ballot boxes. People danced, waved flags, and piled into cars and onto motorcycles, sounding a cacophony of horns and shouting “Get out, Amadou Ba!” as they raced through the streets.

Mr. Faye after casting his ballot at the École Ndiandiaye polling station in Ndiaganiao, Senegal, on Sunday.Credit…Seyllou/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

And at midnight, supporters began to sing Happy Birthday to Mr. Faye, who has gone from obscurity to winning the presidency in a few short months.

But Mr. Faye was not the only winner. Many Senegalese casting their ballots for him saw him merely as a proxy for Mr. Sonko, the fiery orator who was jailed and barred from running, and who anointed Mr. Faye in his place.

Mr. Faye is a former tax collector who was jailed on charges of defamation and contempt of court, after he accused magistrates of persecuting Mr. Sonko, who was himself convicted of defamation and, separately, of corrupting a minor, after he was accused of raping a young massage parlor employee.

Mr. Sonko has been keen to emphasize that a vote for Mr. Faye — known to many as Diomaye — was a vote for him.

“Diomaye is Sonko,” read ubiquitous posters bearing the two men’s youthful, glowing faces.

Supporters of Mr. Faye burn a shirt bearing the picture of Amadou Ba in Dakar, on Sunday.Credit…Zohra Bensemra/Reuters
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