Senegal’s opposition believes that President Abdoulaye Wade is insisting on standing on re-election because the February 26 polls have already been rigged. Wade is among 14 candidates including two women who are standing for election.
Following the Constitutional Council’s ruling that the 85-year-old president was eligible to stand after the opposition argued the supreme law barred two terms, concerns have been mounting the polls would not be transparent. “The cause of these worries is manifold,” observes Babacar Guèye, a legal expert.
The first source of concern is the role of the military and the paramilitary, who vote a week ahead, even though they are only 23 000 voters out of a total 5,1 million on the roll. Another concern is gerrymandering, which will make it hard for some to vote. According to the government they are “only” 83, 000. But analysts say that half of this number tipped the votes in favour of the present Ghanaian president in 2008.
Moreover, there is concern about a potential fraud from a little known information technology (IT) system that could work in favour of Wade in the first round. The rumour about the “magic software” first emerged in 2007, and it has reared its head only a few days ahead of the crucial poll.
The Casamance region, an area that remains insecure, is another object of concern. According to official sources, four soldiers lost their lives on February 13 after clashes between rebel forces and the army. The region is also subject of speculation. “People hesitate before going there,” a supporter of Wade’s most popular opponent, Macky Sall said. One local incumbent contemplates “whether people will be able to go and vote or if observers will be present at the polling stations.” He also hints at “possible ballot stuffing in favour of Wade.”
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Souleymane Ndéné Ndiaye, has sworn that “it is impossible to stuff ballots in Senegal in the year 2012.” And according to Doudou Ndir, the head of the Autonomous National Electoral Committee (Cena), polling stations are well guarded. He argues that the conditions were still the same as when the opposition won the 2009 elections.
But the opposition won’t hear any of the arguments from the Cena, saying the elections will not be credible. Some have even hinted at “fictitious polling stations.”
Doudou Ndir, on his side, has insisted no representative (of candidate’s) will be ignored, arguing that Cena will deploy 16,000 polling overseers alongside vigilant international observers.
Never before has the European Union’s delegation been so large. About 90 delegates arrived during the week preceding the polls, compared to the 150 during elections in the vast DRC. “We won’t accept any breach whatsoever and we will be very attentive,” said one European diplomat.
For now the only hurdle left is the unfathomable: buying off the minds of the people. On February 10, one of the presidential candidates, Ibrahima Fall, blew the whistle on “massive fraud” in the district of Touba, where Wade started his campaign. Wade has also been frequenting the area of late. In 2011, Touba was announced as the district with the highest number of listed voters.
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