The European Union Monitoring Mission (EOM) on the Senegalese presidential election scheduled for 24 February, has begun its work with “one hundred” observers deployed countrywide, the head of mission, Elena Valenciano of Spain told a press conference in Dakar on Monday.
“The observers were deployed yesterday (Sunday). The preparation of the work took quite a long time... We are starting today,” said Valenciano, head of a team who arrived on 15 January in the Senegalese capital and comprising one hundred observers whose role is “to observe the entire electoral process.”
Subject to a “very strict code of conduct,” the team, including “28 long-term observers”, are “independent experts” from the 21 EU member states as well as Norway, Switzerland and Canada, Valenciano explained, describing Senegal as an important country for the bloc.
This is the second EU electoral mission deployed in the country, she said, in line with an agreement with the Senegalese government.
The EU deployed observers in the 2012 presidential election won at the time by Macky Sall.
The incumbent candidate who is seeking reelection, faces four challengers in the race for the presidency.
“The European Union’s missions are impartial, neutral and independent,” even if “criticism” is “part of our work,” Valenciano said.
Remaining in Senegal until the announcement of the final results, and two days after the elections - in the event of a second round - the mission will publicly present, at a press conference, its observations and conclusions on the process, Valenciano added.
She said “a final report from the EOM and the EU will be presented to the (Senegalese) authorities and the public a few weeks later”.
According to herm the report will include a more in-depth assessment of the electoral process, as well as recommendations for future elections.
Asked about the first impressions of the mission, she said: “We don’t really have any details of an observation to share. It is a little early to give an opinion on what we have observed, because we have observed very little so far”.
She explained that the EU’s observations will not concern “elements that are related to any judicial proceedings” in Senegal.
In response to a question on the cases of Khalifa Sall and Karim Wade (whose candidacies for the presidential election were rejected because of judicial issues, she stated that they were the responsibility of the judiciary of an “independent and autonomous” country that ruled on these two personalities.
In the same vein, Denis Petit, electoral analyst, stressed that the mission had “no comment” to make on how the sponsorship of candidatures was applied for this election, even if, he acknowledged, this system had generated some discontentment.
In any case, “we invite everyone to maintain a climate of calm for the elections” and to avoid “violence” because it could discourage voters from voting, the head of the European Union monitoring mission said.