President Macky Sall. Picture: GCIS
President Macky Sall. Picture: GCIS

If Nigeria’s presidential race is too close to call, Senegal’s looks to be more of a one-man show: it is likely that Macky Sall, president since 2012, will garner sufficient support in the February 24 poll to avoid a second-round vote.

A Constitutional Court ruling in January effectively put paid to the presidential ambitions of Sall’s most likely challengers: Khalifa Sall (no relation), a popular politician and former mayor of Dakar; and Karim Wade, a former minister and the son of former president Abdoulaye Wade. The court found both ineligible to stand for office due to convictions for corruption.

The ruling leaves four other candidates in the running: Ousmane Sonko; former prime minister Idrissa Seck; Madické Niang, the foreign minister under Abdoulaye Wade; and Issa Sall (no relation to Macky or Khalifa). By The Economist’s estimate, none has sufficient clout to force a runoff.

While Senegal has largely been seen as a bastion of stability and democratic rule on a continent plagued by fractious politics, politicians and rights groups alike have raised concerns ahead of the vote. News agency AFP reports that the legal representatives of both Khalifa Sall and Karim Wade have said the charges against them are politically motivated, and their supporters have staged demonstrations, calling for fair and transparent elections. Rights group Amnesty International, in a report to the UN last year, flagged as problematic the increasing intimidation and harassment of opposition politicians — including by "unfair trials" — as well as the government’s crackdown on dissent ahead of the elections.