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International Business Times UK
International Business Times UK
Daniel Elliot

What Do the Elections in Senegal and Indonesia Mean for the Nations' Citizens?

In Indonesia, significant protests erupted in Jakarta as demonstrators called for the election authority to prevent candidate Prabowo Subianto from assuming the presidency. (Credit: AFP News)

Elections are contentious anywhere they take place, but in some countries, they take on special meaning and significance when the process does not go as well as intended.

Two specific arenas, Senegal and Indonesia, are currently undergoing major political change and the outcome will have far-reaching consequences for the citizens of each country.


Senegalese voters are expected to finally and once again head to the polls at the end of March, following a string of announcements marking the latest twist in weeks of crisis triggered by the delay to the presidential election.

However, there is still some confusion on the precise date of the first-round vote.

While President Macky Sall set March 24 as the date, Senegal's top constitutional body said it should take place on March 31.

Either way, the election would happen before Sall's mandate ends on April 2, which was one of the key drivers of the political upheaval currently taking place there.

Sall has said he would fully abide by a court decision that overturned the postponement of the presidential election to December, pledging to hold consultations to organise the vote as soon as possible.

A bill that pushed back the Feb. 25 poll and plunged the country into electoral uncertainty was overturned by Senegal's Constitutional Council.

"The President of the Republic intends to fully implement the decision of the Constitutional Council," the presidency said in a statement at the time. "To this end, the Head of State will without delay carry out the consultations necessary to organise the presidential election as soon as possible."

In a sign of calming tensions, the protests passed peacefully and the police maintained order.

But Sall's last-minute move to delay the February 25 poll triggered traditionally stable Senegal's worst crisis in decades.

The Constitutional Council intervened and the president, under growing pressure at home and abroad, vowed to organise the elections "as soon as possible", without any date being set.

Sall, in power since 2012 but not running for a third term, said he called off the vote over disputes about the disqualification of potential candidates and concern about a return to unrest seen in 2021 and 2023.

The international community has voiced its concern over the unrest and called on Senegal to hold a vote as soon as possible, an appeal reiterated by African Union Commission chief Moussa Faki Mahamat on Saturday.

Despite Sall's pledge to respect the Constitutional Council's ruling, the new date for the election and the candidates are unclear.

What this means for the citizens is simple – unrest and instability will lead to chaos and a rise in crime until a vote is held. The country needs stability, and its citizens will suffer in the meantime.


In Indonesia, significant protests erupted in Jakarta as demonstrators called for the election authority to prevent candidate Prabowo Subianto from assuming the presidency, citing allegations of widespread electoral fraud. Subianto, a controversial figure with a history of human rights issues, had declared victory in the recent presidential election, claiming over 58 per cent of the vote in a contest that also featured Anies Baswedan and Ganjar Pranowo, both of whom challenged the results, alleging significant fraud.

The current Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, has already served the maximum two terms in office, so this year's election will mark the first change in leadership in 10 years.

Subianto is a 72-year-old former military strongman and Indonesia's current defence minister. He is running for the top job for a third time, having lost to Jokowi in 2014 and 2019.

Despite the absence of official results, Subianto announced his win based on unofficial counts showing him with 57 per cent to 59 per cent of the vote from over 80 per cent of sampled polling stations.

These preliminary results suggest Subianto may avoid a runoff, given the accuracy of past quick counts in Indonesia's presidential elections since direct voting started in 2004. The election outcome is pivotal for Indonesia, a key player on the global stage with significant markets and resources, affecting the interests of major powers like the United States and China.

The election raises concerns over Indonesia's democratic health, given Subianto's historical accusations of human rights violations and his link to authoritarian figures. His running mate, Gibran, also brought controversy due to his age and familial connections, sparking debates on nepotism especially after a constitutional court ruling allowed his candidacy.

As the country chooses its next leader, Indonesia is undergoing major economic and infrastructural changes, including relocating its capital, amidst the backdrop of a vibrant yet challenged democracy.

The official outcome of the election remains pending, with final results expected to take a month.

Both Baswedan's and Pranowo's teams have promised to present evidence of electoral misconduct, accusing the election of being marred by "structured, systematic and massive" violations.

Allegations of irregularities also extended to the candidacy of Widodo's son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, whose eligibility was a point of contention due to his age, leading to accusations against the judiciary's impartiality. Despite these controversies, Widodo has denied any fraud or bias in the electoral process, emphasizing its transparency and oversight by multiple parties.

Indonesia's citizens will also suffer unless the country can quickly overcome its divisions and arrive at an official result as soon as possible.

What needs to be done

Since elections in countries like Senegal and Indonesia remain unclear or inconclusive, the ramifications for citizens can span across political, economic and social spheres, leading to a myriad of challenges. Political uncertainty often results in delays in forming new governments, disrupting the implementation of crucial policies and creating a crisis of legitimacy that diminishes public trust in governmental institutions.

Economically, this political instability will hopefully only temporarily deter investments and slow down economic growth, but it will affect employment and livelihoods in the short term. Until a clear winner emerges, social tensions will likely escalate into violence, endangering personal safety, damaging property and disrupting daily life and access to essential services.

The prolonged resolution of electoral disputes often erodes democratic norms and institutions, leading to a decrease in political engagement and potentially imposing restrictions on freedoms of expression, assembly and the press.

The psychological and societal strain of electoral uncertainty in both of these countries cannot be understated. Increased political polarisation will divide communities and strain social relations, while the stress and anxiety stemming from political instability may even have profound effects on mental health and well-being.

While the specific impacts in Senegal and Indonesia are shaped by their unique contexts, the challenges highlight the critical need for transparent, fair and efficient electoral processes. Ensuring the integrity and fair outcome of elections is fundamental to stable governance, economic prosperity and the preservation of democratic norms and societal cohesion.

Hopefully, both countries resolve their political issues as quickly as possible so that the citizens can return to normal life in a safe environment.

By Daniel Elliot Daniel Elliot

Daniel is a business consultant and analyst, with experience working for government organisations in the UK and US. On his free time, he regularly contributes to International Business Times UK. 

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