Counting the Votes and Proclaiming Results
The counting of the votes in Senegal is conducted according to the provisions of the Electoral Code in a manner prescribed to guarantee the fairness and accuracy of the vote. Article LO.83 of the Electoral Code states that the votes are counted in the polling stations by the poll workers of the station, representatives of the National Independent Electoral Committee (CENA), representatives of political parties and coalitions of political parties, as well as local citizens authorized to oversee. Furthermore, the counting of votes is often conducted in the presence of national and international observers.
However, it has been noted that during elections in Senegal, representatives of the various candidates are not always present in their polling stations when votes are being counted. Generally, only parties and coalition of parties that have strong sociological bases can afford to be represented in the vast majority of polling stations. To the lack of adequate representation should be added the problem of lack of familiarity with the Electoral Code and the lack of experience of some of the members of polling stations. This may at times lead to dysfunctional situations and increased suspicion of electoral fraud in polling stations.
The proclamation of results
Following the counting of votes, results are announced at various stages, based on the well-defined procedures of the Electoral Code, especially in its article LO.86. After a loud and clear reading of the results in each polling station, the minutes are signed by all members of the polling station, including the representatives of political parties and coalitions, who receive each a certified copy of the results in the presence of national and international observers.
The local results are posted on the door of the polling station by the President of the polling station. Subsequently all the results of the voting center (several polling stations form one voting center) are gathered together and communicated to the Departmental Committee for the Counting of Votes. Following an unofficial proclamation of results at the level of the Department (sub-regional administrative unit), the results are conveyed to the National Committee for the Counting of Votes. The conveying of the results from the voting centers to the Departmental Committee and from the latter to the National Committee are conducted by putting results in sealed envelopes and carried under police escort.
The proclaiming of provisional results: After collecting all non official results from Departmental committees, the National Committee chaired by the President of the Court of Appeals of Dakar announces the provisional results of the election. It should be remembered that the Court of Appeals of Dakar has the mandate to announce provisional results of national elections (presidential and legislative elections). It should be noted that regarding electoral issues, judges are not answerable to the Ministry of Justice, which in principle frees them from any form of pressure from the executive branch.
In order to carry out its mission, the Court of Appeals of Dakar appoints representatives across the country. During the last presidential elections of 2012, the Court of Appeals of Dakar mobilized 250 judges in all electoral districts. Three judges were appointed to each one of the 45 Departmental Committees for the Counting of Votes, and the National Committee for the Counting of Votes is chaired by the President of the Court of Appeals of Dakar in compliance with Article LO.25 of the Electoral Code. Judges deployed in the field supplement representatives of the CENA (in Departmental Committees for the Counting of Votes), in the conduct of their mission of control and supervision of the elections. These judges are charged with supervising electoral operations on the day of elections.
However, the prerogatives granted to courts of appeals in the electoral process, especially in national elections (presidential and legislative) are discharged by the Court of Appeals of Dakar as stated in Article LO.25 of the Electoral Code. For local elections, every court of appeals has jurisdiction on elections in its electoral constituency, as stated in the Electoral code Article LO.25: “The powers extended to the Court of Appeals of Dakar shall be the same as those extended to other courts of appeals in matters pertaining to regional, municipal and rural elections in the electoral constituencies under their jurisdiction. In the case that an area does not yet have a court of appeals sworn in, The Court of Appeals of Dakar shall have the jurisdiction.”
It should also be noted that not only are results broadcast in real time by the media but, starting with the 2012 presidential elections, results obtained at departmental level are immediately posted on line. This increases the transparency and sincerity of the vote.
Electoral disputes: From the registration of candidates to the proclaiming of official results, the institutions in charge of delivering results can also be called on to adjudicate all electoral litigations, within the specific deadlines stated in the Electoral Code for all elections (national or local). Any candidate, list of candidates, or voter (in the case of local elections) can challenge the regularity of electoral results by addressing a claim to the President of the Constitutional Court or the President of the Court of Appeals.
In electoral matters, especially regarding national elections, the Constitutional Court registers the candidacies and rules on their validity, it receives provisional results from the Court of Appeals of Dakar, and adjudicates appeals and demands before proclaiming the final electoral results.
In the last presidential election in Senegal, the main source of litigation was whether or not the incumbent president, Abdoulaye Wade, could legally run for another term in the February 26, 2012 presidential election. A third consecutive candidacy of President Abdoulaye Wade in the presidential election was strongly contested by some leaders of opposition parties and civil society organizations. In its deliberations of January 27 and 29, 2012, The Constitutional Court ruled that Abdoulaye Wade’s candidacy was in fact valid, which created a tense pre-electoral atmosphere in the country.
The announcement of official results: Following the announcement of provisional results, the responsibility for proclaiming final official results for national elections (presidential and legislative) lies with the Constitutional Court. The jurisdiction to proclaim final results for regional, municipal and rural elections pertains to the Court of Appeals of Dakar. Official results are published in the Official Register for each polling station, the publication is made by the President of the Constitutional Court or the President of the Court of Appeals of Dakar, based on the nature of the elections. No appeal is possible after the ruling of the Constitutional Court.
It merits noting that the Constitutional Court was created by President Abdou Diouf in 1992, by Law 92-23 of May 30, 1992, following the elimination of the Supreme Court, and subsequently modified by Organic Law 99-71 of February 17, 1999. The Constitutional Court has five members, known as the “wise ones” (les sages), including a President and a Vice president of the Court.
They are appointed by presidential decree for a six year non renewable term.
The procedure by which the members of the Court are appointed make them clearly susceptible to influence by the President of the Republic, thereby increasing the Court’s lack of credibility in the eyes of the opposition and of some civil society leaders. During the campaign of 2012, President Macky Sall made an electoral promise to change the Constitution regarding the appointment of members of the highest judicial institution of the country so that the President of the Republic will no longer exclusively appoint its members.
In order to render the electoral process more robust and transparent, some institutions such as the CENA (National Autonomous Electoral Committee) have demanded an increase of their powers. The CENA has expressed the desire to have the full chain of custody in the organization of elections, from the appointing of staff members of polling stations and the counting of votes to the conveying of the minutes from polling stations to the various committees responsible for tallying votes.
Useful links and documentary resources
- The electoral code of Senegal (Loi n° 2012-01 abrogeant et remplaçant la loi n° 92-16 du 07 février 1992 relative au Code électoral) : http://www.elections2012.sn/images/stories/CE2012.pdf
- Official website of the Court of Appeal of Dakar : http://cour-appel-dakar.sn/