Senegal’s president-elect pledges to fight corruption after a stunning victory for the 44-year-old

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Opposition leader Bassirou Diomaye Faye holds a press conference in Dakar, Senegal on March 25. (AP)

DAKAR, Senegal, March 26, (AP): Senegal woke up Tuesday to a new president-elect, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, a former tax inspector and political newcomer who was released from prison just weeks ago and had inspired voters, many of them unemployed youth, with a vow to fight corruption and reform the economy.
Faye was catapulted into a presidential campaign after popular opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, who was barred from running due to a prior conviction, had backed him. As he gave his first speech as president-elect on Monday evening, it represented a dramatic rise for the 44-year-old who is due to be the youngest leader of the West African nation.
“I pledge to govern with humility and transparency, and to fight corruption at all levels. I pledge to devote myself fully to rebuilding our institutions,” he said, restating promises made during his campaign.
While official results of Sunday’s vote were not yet available, the other front-runner – the former prime minister who was backed by incumbent President Macky Sall – had conceded defeat. Sall followed with congratulations, also naming Faye as the winner.
The election followed months of unrest ignited by Faye and Sonko’s arrest last year, and concerns that the president would seek a third term in office despite constitutional term limits. The violence shook Senegal’s reputation as a stable democracy in a region that has seen a wave of coups. Rights groups said dozens were killed in the protests, while some 1,000 people were jailed.
Considered the anti-establishment candidate, Faye’s campaign messages of economic reform and anti-corruption resonated with the youth. Almost a third of young people are unemployed with thousands risking their lives on dangerous journeys in search of jobs in the West.
Faye has vowed to improve Senegal’s control over its natural resources by promoting national companies to prevent the country from falling into what his campaign called “economic enslavement.” His manifesto promised to renegotiate Senegal’s oil and gas contract and introduce a new currency.
On Monday night, Faye outlined some early foreign policy priorities, which included reforming the troubled West African regional bloc known as ECOWAS.
“A win by the opposition also means major changes ahead in domestic and foreign policies,” said Rida Lyammouri of the Policy Center for the New South, a Morocco-based think tank, adding that a promise to move away from former colonial power France could define the foreign policy of the country’s new government.
The election was largely peaceful and early counts showed voters turned out overwhelmingly in favor of the opposition. Sonko had promised a resounding victory on his YouTube channel. By Monday evening in Dakar, Faye had been declared the winner and celebrations erupted in neighborhoods around the capital, where supporters danced, played music and set off fireworks.

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