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Senegal: an Ousmane Sonko-Aminata Touré duel for the legislative elections

Aminata Toure

In Senegal, after the alliance of the two wings of the opposition around the fierce opponent Ousmane Sonko, it will be the former Prime Minister Aminata Touré who will lead the coalition of the ruling party, Benno Bokk Yakaar (BBY).

The announcement of the alliance, with the aim of winning the legislative elections, between the coalitions Yewwi Askan Wi of Ousmane Sonko and Khalifa Sall, and Wallu Senegal of former President Abdoulaye Wade provoked the immediate response of the coalition of the ruling party Alliance for the Republic (APR), Benno Bokk Yakaar (BBY). The members of BBY have set themselves in motion: the campaign is launched and will be led by former Prime Minister Aminata Touré.

A few months ago, we would never have imagined this. Aminata Touré, despite her influence within the party of Senegalese President Macky Sall, is considered by her supporters as a free electron. Strong in character, "Mimi" lost her position as prime minister in 2014 after just under a year. In 2019, after being reconciled with party executives, Aminata Touré wrote a large part of Macky Sall's presidential program. Three months after his victory, the Senegalese head of state then appointed Touré to head the Economic, Social and Environmental Council (CESE), the third most important post in the Senegalese state.

But Macky Sall had embarked on a risky strategy which consisted in pushing aside his allies to surround himself with his political enemies and thus weaken the opposition. He haswill then decided to dismiss Aminata Touré in November 2020, replacing her with his best enemy, the ex-Prime Minister of Wade, Idrissa Seck.

A decision that had caused a storm within the APR. From close to the president, Aminata Touré had become one of the most critical personalities vis-à-vis Macky Sall, even in the columns of the Senegalese press. While continuing to campaign for the presidential party. She had also been very virulent towards the mayor of Dakar, Barthélémy Dias, during the municipal elections in January.

Aminata Touré and the difficult conquest of voters

Is Aminata Touré therefore back home? In reality, the former head of government has never turned her back on the RPA. However, and we have noticed this since her appointment as head of the national BBY list, "Mimi" has to deal with the president's most zealous supporters, who are not necessarily kind to her.

But the strategy is not without interest: Aminata Touré must in particular make it possible to attract some support from the opposition in the camp of BBY. The former Prime Minister will have until July 31 to rally around his camp. But opposite, the opposition is more and more popular. And the rather divided presidential coalition will have a lot to do to convince. The last municipal elections have highlighted the fragility of the RPA, which has lost its bastions in the center and south to confirm in the northern regions, where Macky Sall still has a guarantor.

Aminata Touré, she has her bases rather in the east, a forgotten region of the country, and will be able to benefit from what characterizes her: a strong charisma, an international stature and a knowledge of the Senegalese political seraglio. Still, what could be considered an asset — being a woman and having feminist convictions — will not necessarily be so in Senegal where, according to the teacher and media man Songué Diouf, “Being a woman is torture”.

Ousmane Sonko expected at the turn

Especially since facing the running mate of Aminata Touré, we find opposite an opposition which stands up. Indeed, Ousmane Sonko, strong from his victory in the municipal elections, is in ambush. He can now count on the support of Khalifa Sall and Abdoulaye Wade. The Senegalese opponent has moved the lines since March 2021. Arrested on rape charges, his brief incarceration shook Senegal, where the riots of the #FreeSenegal movement resulted in the death of several young people. The country has experienced an unprecedented wave of violence.

Considered a populist by some, a source of hope for others, Ousmane Sonko could play the spoilsport during the July legislative elections. Not a week goes by without the opponent organizing public outings, in the context of demonstrations or meetings. His supporters have made him the totem of the opposition in the West African country, going on to call him "President", the position Sonko will no doubt covet in 2024.

The duel between Ousmane Sonko and Aminata Touré therefore promises to be tense. Since last year, it doesn't take much for politics to lead to violence in Senegal. But beyond that, between Sonko who seeks to find a second wind, and Aminata Touré who could well relaunch an already well-stocked political career, the leaders of the opposition and those in power will play big next summer.

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