Parliamentary elections were held in Senegal on 30 July 2017, having originally been planned for the 2nd of July.
Senegal is a democratic presidential republic. The Prime Minister is the head of the government, while legislative power is held both by the government and the National Assembly. The National Assembly is comprised of 165 seats. This year was the first time Senegalese foreign diaspora was allocated a quota within the parliament: 15 seats. Senegalese diaspora amounts to 2.5-3 million persons, contributing around 1.4 billion euros to the country’s economy. The turnout for General Assembly Elections in 2017 was at 53.66% and the party of incumbent president Macky Sall, Benno Bok Yakar, won a landslide majority, retaining 43 out of 45 electoral districts. The opposition parties attempted to challenge the results at the Constitutional court, but in a ruling delivered on August 14th the Court recognised the results of the election as valid.
Women’s Political Participation
Africa Development Bank gives Senegal the score of 51.9 on gender equality index, with 40.3 score on Laws & Institutions indicators. The previous election, held in 2012, witnessed the number of women parliamentarians almost double (22,7% to 42,7%), due to the law on parity in elections signed by former president Abdoulaye Wade in 2010. The law obliges all political parties to place women and men in an alternating manner on candidate lists, aiming at a male-female ratio of 50%. Non-compliance may lead to disqualification of party lists. This does not necessarily secure female seats in the parliament but gives women an equal chance to be elected. The youngest candidate running for the parliament this year was 25-year-old Mariam Sira Ndiaye. Although the number of women elected to the Assembly raised from 64 to 69, the share of female representatives remained the same (42%) due to introduction of additional 15 seats for diaspora candidates Among the 15 elected diaspora candidates, only 3 are women.
Senegal’s 2001 constitution guarantees equality between women and men in its article 7. The country has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), and the Optional Protocol on violence against women. In addition, a National Strategy for Gender Equality and Equity has been developed, to run from 2005-2015. Discriminatory practices, especially in the domains of the family and inheritance, persist, although Senegal has succeeded in putting in place a legal framework that, de jure, does much to protect women’s bodily integrity. Lastly, even though the police force and customs service being open to women since 2007, recruitment of women to the latter remains ineffective.
Despite the enactment of the Law on Parity in Elections, women in Senegal still face significant challenges when it comes to gender equality in political life. In religious communities, this is due to traditionalist perception of the role of women in the society. Country-wide, female candidates lack opportunity to undergo capacity training and skills development to prepare for their election campaign. As a result, it is crucial for the country to reform all discriminatory legislative provisions and strengthen laws and policies in conformity with CEDAW and the Maputo Protocol.