by Marilyn Saliba

On Sunday, 31 July 2022, seven million voters voted in the Senegalese parliamentary elections. This election was deemed crucial since the absolute majority in parliament that supported the President sought to preserve its seats. The opposition, on the other hand, saw an opportunity to change the balance of power and claim more seats allowing them to gain more influence before the presidential election in 2024. 

 For the first time since the country’s independence in 1960, the governing coalition of the incumbent President Macky Sall lost its absolute majority in the parliament. They secured 82 seats, falling short of the 83 seats required to maintain an absolute majority. Meanwhile, the opposition obtained 80 seats in the National Assembly, with Wallu Senegal securing 24 seats and Yewwi Askan Wi  56 seats. 

In June 2022, the Constitutional Council confirmed the decision of the Minister of Interior. It barred Ousmane Sonko, the opposition leader, from contesting because one of the names on the list had been accidentally placed as both first choice and alternate candidate. Therefore Sonko's party would not be able to participate in the elections. Subsequently, there were demonstrations in the streets that resulted in the deaths of three people. After the opposition threatened to boycott the elections in their entirety, an agreement was made that eased tensions. The opposition coalition was allowed again to run in the elections.

On election day, sporadic incidents were reported in the suburbs, such as Guédiawaye. At the University of Touba polling centre, three young people affiliated with the ruling coalition, who came to encourage citizens to vote for the President’s coalition, were briefly arrested by the police. At the end of the afternoon, the Electoral Commission said it had observed a vote “in peace and discipline in the vast majority of offices”

Moreover, Net Blocks, an organisation monitoring access to the internet, had noted an additional disturbance to the democratic process caused by restrictions on social media and blocked access to messaging apps such as Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp and Telegram. Apart from those incidents, the 21-day campaign was quiet and free from disturbance. 

The Republic of Senegal is a unitary state with presidential and unicameral parliamentary systems. Following the constitutional referendum of 2016, the number of seats in the National Assembly increased to 165 from 150. Regarding women’s political participation, article 7 of the Constitution guarantees equality between men and women.

Since 2010, the national electoral law has mandated parity in all candidate lists for the general elections. It is important to note here that Senegal has a parallel electoral system. Parity provisions apply to the list of candidates submitted for seats elected through a proportional representation system and the seats contested through a majority system in multi-member constituencies. The Constitutional Council enforced the gender parity law to some extent in the 2022 elections. For example, the Council declared the list of substitutes for the proportional ballot presented by the BBY coalition inadmissible because it does not comply with the provisions relating to parity.

Women’s political participation:

Following the 2022 parliamentary elections, women’s representation increased. 73 women were elected out of 165 MPs, accounting for 44.24% of the seats in the National Assembly. Women head two of 14 parliamentary committees.. In 2017, 41.82% of the seats were held by women, and two out of 11 parliamentary committees were led by female MPs.

In the legislative elections of 2022, only one female was the head of a party list: Aminata Touré. Touré served as the Minister of Justice under Macky Sall in 2012 and later as Prime Minister from 2013 to 2014. 

The number of eligible voters in the 2022 election was 7,360,466. However, there was a decrease in the participation rate in the current election. Voter turnout was 46.64% compared to 53.66% in the elections of 2017. Official female voter turnout was unavailable. However, women were presented as voters, representatives of political coalitions, and members of polling stations to ensure the integrity of the electoral process and the safety of women voters.

In 2014, there was a failure to comply with the law on gender parity. Many hoped that this would serve as a lesson for future legislative elections. A similar scenario occurred in 2022. According to the Collectif des femmes, political parties neglect women’s political participation. More broadly, there was a rise in the discourse criticising and discrediting the law on gender parity by presenting it to the public as a “danger to democracy”. As Zipporah Ndione, a Senegalese feminist activist stated before the elections: “The battle for women’s rights is never won in advance and you always have to be vigilant”. The Collectif des féministes du Sénégal carried out a media campaign to address the importance of respecting the legislated candidate quota. 

One of the main obstacles preventing women from running in the elections is the difficulty of securing finances for their campaigns. Under Article 374 of the Family Code, women are entitled to bank accounts and loans. However, Senegalese women struggle to obtain loans because they tend not to own land and thus cannot provide the collateral needed to secure a loan. Furthermore, women have limited access to the hierarchy within the political parties, which can leave them with no financial support to conduct their campaigns. Concerning violence against women (VAW), the main piece of legislation currently protecting women is the Law on the Suppression of Violence Against Women (1999), which imposes severe penalties for acts of VAW.

Despite recent progress to advance women's representation in public and political life, there is still a lot of work to be done to promote the active role of women in these spheres. Maimouna Astou Yade, a member of the Collectif des feministes du Senegal, believes that the revision of the Family Code is imperative for the newly elected parliamentarians, particularly the following articles: 152 (marital power), 153, 111 (legal age of marriage), 196 (prohibiting the search for paternity), 277 (legitimate children) among other discriminatory provisions against women.


The elections to Senegal's National Assembly took place on 31st July 2022. The representation of women increased from 41.82% in 2017 to 44.24% following the 2022 election. Overall, women's participation in Senegal's political life is growing. More women have managed to occupy significant positions in decision-making bodies and push for parliament to pass laws related to women's rights. For instance, under the past legislature, 69 women were instrumental in passing laws criminalising rape and protecting pregnant women's rights in the workplace. 

However, the political party's leadership structure continues to be dominated by male elites. They serve as gatekeepers for female candidates despite a law enacted over a decade ago on gender parity. Without binding measures, women will not be well represented in decision-making bodies. Thus, it is essential to implement a system of monitoring the application of the law on parity. And to use the media to track candidacies in a gender-conscious way. Finally, women should have equal access to financing their electoral campaigns. They should be more involved in the electoral processes by participating in civil society organisations (CSOs)'s, especially women's rights organisations, training sessions.

Women’s Political Participation

In 2017, 69/165 seats, or 41.82% of seats were held by women. In 2022 73/165 or 44.24% of seats are held by women in the Senegal National Assembly

Source: Inter-Parliamentary Union

Go to top