Senegal Candidates Back Opposition’s Faye in Race for Presidency

(Bloomberg) -- More than a dozen of Senegal’s 19 presidential candidates backed opposition leader Bassirou Diomaye Faye to become the West African nation’s next leader, as the authorities counted ballots in Sunday’s election.

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While the Autonomous National Electoral Commission has yet to release any official results, 13 candidates including Anta Babacar and Alassane Thierno Sall congratulated Faye on winning the vote, according to statements posted on X. Walfadjri Radio, a private broadcaster, said at least 56% of voters backed Faye in the election, based on estimates by a team of statisticians it hired to predict the outcome of the vote.

The campaign team of former Prime Minister Amadou Ba, who is outgoing President Macky Sall’s anointed successor, said it expects there to be a second round of voting in a “worst-case scenario,” according to a statement. The CENA, as the electoral authority is known, is expected to announce final results later this week.

Read More: Key Dates to Watch as Ballots Counted in Senegal’s Election

A credible vote will be key to restoring Senegal’s reputation as a bastion of democracy in West Africa, a region riven by a spate of coups over the past four years. The country has never had a military takeover, and Sall’s decision to delay the elections originally scheduled for Feb. 25 triggered street protests, international condemnation and fears that he intended to overstay his constitutional mandate.

Voters lined up outside polling stations throughout the day to cast their ballots on Sunday, raising expectations of a high turnout.

The uncertainty in the build-up to Sunday’s election roiled the nation’s eurobonds. Further instability may lead to additional volatility, while a hitch-free process may coax the government into following others in the region like Ivory Coast and Benin, which raised new dollar debt, Carmen Altenkirch, an analyst at Aviva Investors Global Services Ltd., said before the vote.

“If the election results are contested, and protests erupt, we may see significant spread widening,” she said. “If the elections do go smoothly, Senegal will likely come to market very quickly.”

The yield on Senegalese dollar debt due in 2033 rose seven basis points to 9.24% by 10:41 a.m. in London on Monday. The rate on its 2037 instruments climbed four basis points to 9.48%.

Investors are pinning their hopes on Ba, 62, clinching the vote. He’s seen as the candidate who’ll continue to implement policies introduced by Sall that helped the West African nation’s economy grow more than 5% annually since he came to power in 2012.

They’re nervous about Faye winning.

The 44-year-old former tax inspector with no experience in government has pledged to review oil and gas deals the government signed with international investors including BP Plc, Endeavour Mining and Kosmos Energy. He’s also questioned whether Senegal should continue using the CFA franc — a euro-pegged regional currency — if the way it’s managed isn’t overhauled, and pledged to review the nation’s relations with former colonial power France.

To win the presidency, a candidate needs an outright majority, failing which the two contenders who garner the most votes will square off in a second round next month. More than 7 million people registered to vote in the election.

--With assistance from Momar Niang, Colleen Goko and Moses Mozart Dzawu.

(Updates number of candidates backing Faye in first, second paragraphs; adds latest bond prices in eighth paragraph. An earlier version of this story was corrected to fix the spelling of Senegal in the chart)

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