Senegal's Sall backs PM Ba as ruling coalition's presidential candidate

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visits Senegal

By Diadie Ba and Ngouda Dione

DAKAR (Reuters) -Senegal's President Macky Sall on Saturday named Prime Minister Amadou Ba as the ruling Benno Bokk Yakaar (BBY) coalition's candidate for the February 2024 presidential election.

Ba, 62, a former economy minister who had also held the position of foreign minister, is a taxation specialist who was appointed prime minister in September last year.

Sall ruled out running for a third term in July after violent unrest in the West African country, throwing wide open the race to succeed him.

Members of the BBY coalition, seeking to avoid protracted primaries that could cause divisions just a few months before the deadline to submit candidates, had given Sall the green light to name a candidate.

"After a wide consultation, a task that was complex and difficult... including considering a primary that was rejected by interested candidates and leaders in the coalition, we decided on a consensual and collegial choice," former prime minister Moustapha Niasse said, reading a statement from Sall.

"The selection criteria targeted professional skills, a diversified career... Our decision was also motivated by the qualities of humility, of listening to lead. It is in this spirit that we have selected Amadou Ba," Sall said in the statement.

Ba is tasked with re-energizing the coaling, which lost key cities in the January 2022 local elections to a galvanized opposition that campaigned around Sall's suspected third term ambitions.

It lost further ground to the opposition in the July legislative election, gaining a majority of just one with 82 seats out of 165 seats in the house, compared with 125 seats it won in the 2017 legislative election.

Sall's statement said Ba will be a unifying figure within his party and the coalition, and he will ensure continuity of economic, social and environmental policies.

(Reporting by Diadie Ba and Ngouda Dione; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Alexander Smith and Mike Harrison)