Senegal: Pioneer Presidential Debate Slated

Senegal is generally considered as a respectable democracy in Africa, given that the country has known peaceful transitions since independence from France on April 4, 1960. Often looked up to as a model of political stability on a turbulent continent, Senegalese will in less than two weeks go to the polls in the first round of a presidential vote.

And for the first time in the country’s electoral history, a presidential debate is scheduled for February 21, 2019, just three days before the presidential election, Radio France International, RFI, said. Two journalists and a host will manage the televised debate, which will be carried out in Wolof for understanding by more people.

Organised by three independent organisations – 2sTV, Radio Imédia and the website – the idea has been welcomed by Ousmane Sonko, Madicke Niang, Issa Sall and Idrissa Seck, the four other presidential candidates, but rejected by incumbent President Macky Sall. The initiative was first brought up last month by bloggers and civil society activists.

Meanwhile, the forthcoming presidential debate is viewed differently by would-be voters. Jean Marie Diatta, 70, a supporter of the President, would like him to take part in the debate. He however adds that even if Macky Sall does not participate, his achievements by far surpass what any other head of state has done.

Amongst the President’s aides, there is little enthusiasm for the debate. They say the opposition takes advantage of every opportunity to slander Macky Sall. “The President is focused on his work. This is not the time to listen to others or engage in debates. He doesn’t have time to waste,” explained Astou Low, a housewife.

Marcel Tendeng, a retired hotel worker, thinks otherwise. “A presidential debate helps to persuade the electorate to make right choices. Politicians often present their manifestoes, but once elected, they forget completely about those who voted for them. I support a face-toface debate by presidential candidates to explain what they plan to do and how they are going to achieve their objectives,” Tendeng said.

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