By: Ida W. Djiguimde

Presidential elections in Senegal took place on the 24th of February 2019.

The Senegalese Top Court confirmed the reelection of serving president Macky Sall, with up to 2,555,426 votes casted, representing 58.26% of the registered voters. He is set to serve the Senegalese people for a second and last term of 5 years. The other candidates scored far behind with Idrissa Seck registering 899,556 representing 20.51%. Ousmane Sonko balloted 687,523 or 15.67%, Madické Niang, 65,021 or 1.48% and El Hadji Sall got 178,613, representing 4.07%.

Senegal is one of the most stable democracies in West Africa. With more than 6.6 million registered voters and a population that is a relatively young, characterised with an average age of 19, young people have expectations from the new leader. Between the pressing matters that the youth wishes for the incoming president to tackle are education and health, innovative initiatives, an investment on young people and women, and a dismantling of the absolute presidential power. In 2016, Senegal went through a constitutional referendum that aimed to reform the political system and strengthen the rule of law. One of the most controversial amendments to the constitution was the limitation of the presidential term from 7 years to 5 years. The overall turnout of the acceptance rate of the referendum by Senegalese citizens proves healthy features of democracy in Senegal

In Senegal, there is a two round system where the winner is expected to cast over 50% of the voices of the people by direct universal suffrage in order to avoid a second round. Any Senegalese national who is at least 35 years of age and enjoy civil and political rights is eligible to run for presidency. Senegal’s presidency has a five-year term renewable once, following the referendum of 2016 that allowed presidents to serve for 7 years.


Women’s Political Participation

The political representation of women in Senegal presidential office is quasi inexistent. For the last two presidential elections in 2012 and 2019, there was no woman candidate. The country however has, under the ministry of Woman, Family and Childhood, developed strategic plans and implemented laws in order to promote a gender-sensitive environment.

Senegal ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination  against Women (CEDAW) since 1985 and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa in 2005.

Based on findings in the African Women’s Decade (AWD) report, since the introduction of gender quotas in 2010, women’s representation in Parliament increased from 22.7% in 2010 to 43.3% in 2014; even though it dropped again to 41.8% after the elections of 2017.

Recently on September 2018, Soham El Wardini made history when she got elected as the first female mayor of Dakar, the capital city of Senegal. Wardini’s win was a historical moment for the inhabitants of Dakar who witnessed the first female mayor set to run the city since the country’s independence in 1960.

Concerning the status of women on domains outside the political arena, data from AWD report show that 14.1% of women occupy top managerial positions and 22.9% of businesses had female sharing in ownership.

Regarding the challenges that women face on the political sphere, the lack of commonality between women themselves is a problematic. Additionally, the high costs associated to implementing electoral campaigns, the lack of coverage of women’s issues by the media and mostly, the highly patriarchal attitudes, traditional views and conservative beliefs constitute substantial impediments for women.



Senegal’s political landscape is still male dominated. However, the country has proven its continued commitment to gender equality through the ratification of international protocols or the implementation of national laws. The Senegalese National Strategy for Gender Equality and Equity (SNEEG) was a program developed with the contribution of UN Women Senegal to initially run from 2005-2015. The program was updated in 2016 to affiliate with the Senegal Emerging Plan (PSE) which objectives are to “contribute to make Senegal an emerging country in 2035 with a society of solidarity in a state of law, without discrimination, where men and women will have the same opportunities to participate in its development and enjoy the benefits of its growth".

In addition to signing laws and ratifying treaties, Senegal must adopt strategic methods to put such laws into practice. Such approach will allow women to fully take part in the political arena and reach a gender equal society.

Regardless of the male dominated political sphere, Senegalese women should continue to aim for seats to the decision-making table, at the example of Soham El Wardini. Such resilience can counter the challenges to the gender leadership gap and engender female presidential candidates in the near future. 


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