Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Youssou Throws His Hat Into The Ring

Famed Senegalese musician Youssou N'Dour made good on a promise that we reported on two months ago to become more involved in politics in his homeland by announcing that he would run for president of Senegal in elections scheduled for next month.  In November, N'Dour promised to end all “artistic commitments” after January 2 and “enter the political arena”, though the comment made it unclear what N'Dour would actually do in politics.

Now we know that he means to square off against Senegal's sitting president Abdoulaye Wade, who is seeking a third term in office.  The match-up is particularly interesting since Wade and N'Dour were once quite close, but fell out after Pres. Wade tried to pressure N'Dour to order a newspaper he owned to not run an embarrassing story about Wade's son.  N'Dour refused.  Anger in Senegal has been building against Wade for some time now, both over his attempt to change the laws to allow himself a third term in office and because of Senegal's ongoing economic stagnation and chronic shortages of electricity.  Power outages of a day or longer are common in the capital, Dakar; blackouts are so frequent that the national power company, Senelec, has earned the nickname “Darkness, Inc.”

But observers aren't sure that N'Dour's personal popularity will translate to a winning margin over Wade.  Despite a large pool of ill will towards Pres. Wade, he will face over a dozen challengers in February's vote.  It is unclear yet whether the opposition to Wade will coalesce around N'Dour, or whether it will remain fragmented allowing Wade to slip back in for a third term as president.
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