The Two Frontrunners Vying to Become Senegal’s Next Leader

(Bloomberg) -- Nineteen candidates will vie for Senegal’s presidency in Sunday’s elections, but the only two with a realistic chance of winning are a former prime minister who outgoing leader Macky Sall is backing to continue his economic policies, and a challenger who plans to shake up the status quo. Here is a snapshot of the frontrunners and their campaign pledges:

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Amadou Ba

Age: 62

Party: Alliance for the Republic

Strengths: He’s one of Senegal’s most experienced politicians, having previously served as finance minister, the nation’s top diplomat and most recently as prime minister. President Macky Sall endorsed him for the top job and he is the preferred candidate of investors, who expect him to perpetuate Sall’s business-friendly policies and keep oil and gas production plans on track.

Weaknesses: Ba lacks the support of several ruling party heavyweights, with some openly questioning whether he was the right person to be its flag bearer. Perceptions that a bid by Sall to postpone the election, which was originally scheduled for Feb. 25, was an attempt to subvert the democratic process and erode support for the ruling coalition — especially since it sought to amend the constitution to extend his rule by at least 10 months. Ba has maintained some distance from the president and that should help limit the fallout.

Bassirou Diomaye Faye

Age: 43

Party: Coalition Diomaye President

Strengths: Faye was named as the main opposition’s presidential candidate after its firebrand leader Ousmane Sonko was disqualified from running after he was convicted of libel. Sonko, who has thrown his weight behind Faye’s campaign, is wildly popular among the youth — an important voting constituency in a country where nearly two thirds of the population of 18 million is younger than 35. Both men were freed from prison just 10 days before the election, and Faye’s campaign could benefit from perceptions that they were being politically persecuted. On Friday, ex-President Abdoulaye Wade’s Senegalese Democratic Party urged its supporters to back Faye, giving his campaign a boost.

Weaknesses: A former tax inspector, Faye has never held public office, and his lack of experience in the political arena has been apparent during his public appearances. Senegal’s Western allies and international investors have viewed his plans to shake up management of the economy and review Senegal’s relations with former colonial power France with trepidation.

The Kingmakers

Should no contender win an outright majority, the two who garner the most votes will square off in a second round and the one who secures the most endorsements from other opposition candidates and parties will have a clear advantage.

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