Little-known opposition leader in Senegal is named the next president Senegal's president elect, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, was elected by a landslide, only weeks after leaving prison. He is now set to be one of Africa's youngest leaders.

Little-known opposition leader in Senegal is named the next president

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In Senegal, an opposition leader has won a stunning victory less than two weeks after being released from prison. The run-up to this presidential election had been postponed on intentions that have now given way to celebrations, as NPR's Emmanuel Akinwotu reports from Lagos.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Non-English language spoken).

EMMANUEL AKINWOTU, BYLINE: Elated supporters of Bassirou Diomaye Faye poured out onto the streets of the capital Dakar, even before the final results were declared. Only hours after the polls closed, the improbable reality began to emerge. It's one of the biggest upsets in Senegal's history, with the 44-year-old set to become the country's youngest ever president and one of the youngest on the continent.


AKINWOTU: Less than two weeks ago, there were similar scenes in Dakar after Faye was released from prison. The former tax inspector had been detained without trial for close to a year, accused of inciting insurrection amid a clampdown on PASTEF, his political party. But after an amnesty, he was freed alongside firebrand figure Ousmane Sonko, the driving force behind this victory, who amassed huge support from young people across Senegal.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Non-English language spoken).

AKINWOTU: Amadou Ba, his main rival, offered his congratulations in his concession speech. The former prime minister and candidate of the ruling party praised the polls as one of the most free and fair elections. And he thanked outgoing President Macky Sall for his support, even though to many, Sall's actions in recent years laid the ground for this defeat.

OUMAR BA: Macky Sall's standing has been deeply compromised.

AKINWOTU: Oumar Ba is assistant professor of international relations at Cornell University. He said Sall's refusal to rule out a controversial third term until last year and deadly clampdowns on protesters fueled opposition to him.

BA: He has hurt his own reputation through the uncertainty that he pulled the country through, the repression by the police force of the protests over the past couple of years, and especially also over the past two months when he was trying to postpone the election.

AKINWOTU: Recent tensions and unrest have heightened fears of the fragility of democracy in Senegal, especially amid coups and turbulence across the region. But for some, like Mohamed Mbaye in Dakar, this election also shows its resilience.

MOHAMED MBAYE: (Through intepreter) I'm just glad to see democracy is advancing in our country. We really hope that the new president, who is elected by the majority, will manage the country well.

AKINWOTU: Emmanuel Akinwotu, NPR News, Lagos.

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