Senegal: joining the EU election observation mission
01 March 2019
Last weekend as the people of Senegal went to the polls to elect a new President, I joined the EU election monitoring team as a short term election observer. As someone who has been involved in elections for many years, it was fascinating to be invited to follow polling day in Senegal, from the opening of the polls to the count later that evening. We began our day in the old colonial town of St Louis to monitor the setting up of the polling station and then visited several rural polling stations as we travelled back to attend a count in the country’s capital Dakar.
Elections monitors are invited by the host country to act as independent witnesses that the elections are free and fair. So on polling day, our job was to work through a checklist in each polling station: checking, for example, that the polling booths were private, that ballot papers were in order and that there was no intimidation or campaign material in the polling station. There’s always something humbling about watching people vote, that real sense you get of people power. But that feeling was stronger still in Senegal, one of the poorest countries in the world, as we watched people queuing under the desert sun, determined to have their say in the running of their country.
Ballot papers in Senegal elections
The elections themselves were well run and a credit to the local officials determined to let people have their democratic say. Turnout nationwide was a record high of over 66% and the incumbent President Macky Sall has been declared the winner with 58% of the vote.