Economy Hands Edge to Senegal's Sall as Voters Go to Polls - EcoFinBiz Blog

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Economy Hands Edge to Senegal's Sall as Voters Go to Polls

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(Bloomberg) -- Senegal’s galloping economy gives incumbent Macky Sall the upper hand against four opposition candidates in Sunday’s presidential election.

Since assuming office in 2012, Sall, 57, has managed to attract billions of dollars in investment, including from China, for his Emerging Senegal Plan and overseen average annual growth of about 6 percent. Projects such as highways, an express train for commuters and a new international airport in a city that’s being built from scratch to ease congestion in the capital, Dakar, featured prominently in his re-election campaign.

“On paper, the incumbent Sall has the means to win with a comfortable majority,” said Etienne Smith, a professor of political science at the Institute of Political Studies in Bordeaux. “He is a seasoned politician with the experience of successful campaigning. Besides, the economic context is rather favorable.”

Read more: Booming economy sets up Senegal’s Sall for new term

Investors snapped up Senegalese foreign currency bonds in the week before the vote, taking calm elections and policy continuation as a given in the only West African nation that has never experienced a coup. Sall supported a 2016 constitutional change that reduced the presidential term to five years from seven.

Still, the high pace of infrastructure development hasn’t automatically translated in improved living standards, with almost eight out of 10 people saying the government hasn’t created enough jobs, according to a 2017 Afrobarometer poll.

Critics have also accused Sall of manipulating the courts by the exclusion from the vote of former Dakar mayor Khalifa Sall, an opposition heavyweight until he was jailed for corruption last year. Macky Sall has denied any political interference.

Youth Candidate

Among Sall’s challengers are ex-Prime Minister Idrissa Seck and former tax inspector Ousmane Sonko, who is popular with young voters after a campaign in which he pledged to wrest control of the economy from foreign companies.

Candidates need more than 50 percent of the vote to win the election, with a second round scheduled in a month’s time if no one secures a majority. Voting starts at 8:00 a.m. and will continue until 6:00 p.m., with first results expected Tuesday.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alonso Soto in Dakar at asoto54@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.net, Pauline Bax, Andre Janse van Vuuren

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