Senegal’s Jailed Opposition Head Backs Detained Deputy’s Presidential Bid

(Bloomberg) -- Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko backed his deputy for next month’s presidential election after being eliminated from the vote earlier this month.

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Sonko, who until his exclusion was seen as the biggest threat to President Macky Sall’s chosen successor Prime Minister Amadou Ba, urged his supporters to vote for Bassirou Faye in a pre-recorded speech broadcast on his official Facebook page.

Sonko was detained in July and accused of plotting an insurrection, criminal conspiracy and theft, among other crimes.

“If Bassirou Faye’s candidacy was approved, he is our choice,” he said in the recording that was made months before the constitutional council’s Jan. 20 publication of the final list of candidates, which included Faye.

Senegal Forges Ahead With Vote That Will Exclude Top Contender

Faye, the secretary-general of Sonko’s dissolved Pastef party, will contest the vote against 19 other candidates in the Feb. 25 polls including Ba, popular former Dakar mayor Khalifa Sall and Idrissa Seck, the runner up in the 2019 presidential vote.

Faye, who has been detained since April, will benefit from Sonko’s soaring popularity among Senegalese youth. The 43-year-old former tax inspector faces charges after criticizing a magistrate in a defamation case involving Sonko and a tourism minister.

Sonko was later convicted of libel, excluding him from the vote.

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