Senegalese Winnipeggers cast ballots in vital homeland election

Members of Winnipeg’s Senegalese community used a local ballot box on Sunday to have their voices heard in what’s being called a crucial legislative election in their homeland thousands of kilometres away.

“This is very important because it will define the politic of the government to what the population wants, exactly,” said Daour Wade in an interview at the Senegalese Consulate on Egerton Way in St. Boniface. The consulate was serving as a polling station for the absentee votes. 

Senegal is one of the only francophone countries in the world which allows citizens to vote outside the nation’s borders, consulate officials said.

“I’m so proud to be Senegalese and to be a part of this community,” Wade said.

He was one of 171 Senegalese people in Winnipeg eligible to vote, Consul General Ibrahima Diallo told CBC. Manitoba is seeing more people from Senegal move here to work, Diallo said.

Allowing citizens to have their say in the politics of the country despite not being there is very important, he added.

The legislative election in Senegal is being seen as a vital test for opposition parties who are trying to minimize the ruling party’s influence before the 2024 presidential election amid worries that current President Macky Sall may seek a third term.

About 7 million voters are eligible to elect 165 deputies in the National Assembly amid a politically tense atmosphere in the West African nation.

Violent protests broke out last year after Sall’s main opponent, Ousmane Sonko, was arrested on rape charges, and more than a dozen people were killed. Sonko, who came in third in the 2019 election, denies the allegations and his supporters have been vocal about their opposition to the president.

This year, he and another of Sall’s major opponents were disqualified as candidates, which sparked more widespread anger and protests in which three people died in June.

Senegal, with a population of 17 million, is known for its stability in a region that has seen coups in three countries since 2020 and where leaders have changed laws to remain in power for third terms.

Sunday’s election will give a clearer indication of what could happen in 2024.

Diallo said results are expected on Monday.

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