Senegal’s five presidential candidates

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A bus drives past a campaign poster for the upcoming presidential election, depicting Senegal's president Macky Sall in Dakar, Senegal February 12, 2019. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

Senegal’s President Macky Sall faces off against four other candidates when the West African country heads to the polls on Sunday, 24 February.

A bus drives past a campaign poster for the upcoming presidential election, depicting Senegal’s president Macky Sall in Dakar, Senegal February 12, 2019. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

The 57-year-old is expected to win the vote after his two most formidable opponents were barred from contesting due to allegations of graft.

Sall made his debut in politics as a member of former president and mentor Abdoulaye Wade’s Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS).

He has served as his Prime Minister between 2004 and 2007, after which he formed his own party, the Alliance for the Republic (APR), due to a falling out with Wade in 2008.

Sall’s opponent and former Prime Minister Idrissa Seck, has been unsuccessful in his bids for the presidency so far.

He finished second to Wade during the polls in 2007, running under a party he founded called Remwi – which means “The Country” in the Wolof language.

Seck ran again in 2012 but did not make it to the second round. He is one of Sall’s main challengers, but a widely-cited survey in November showed him trailing the incumbent with little over 8% support.

At 45 years old, Ousmane Sonko is the youngest contestant in the race and a newcomer to the political scene. His relative youth plays to his advantage in Senegal, where more than 60% of the population is under 25 and anxious for change.

The tax inspector made a name for himself in 2016 when he became a whistleblower, denouncing corrupt practices among the Senegalese elite.

He was sacked over the activism, but his new-found prominence led to his election as a lawmaker in 2017, representing his own party: the Patriots of Senegal for Work, Ethics and Fraternity (PASTEF).

He is Sall’s other main challenger with 15 percent support, according to the November survey, which was conducted before the candidates list was finalised. Official opinion polls are banned ahead of elections.

The 63-year-old IT professor, Issa Sall represents the Party of Unity and Assembly (PUR). Founder of a private university in Dakar, Issa Sall launched his political career in the late 1990s. He is one of only three representatives of his party in the national assembly.

Madicke Niang, 66, is seen as having the least chance of winning the upcoming vote.

A long-time member of the PDS, Niang was a loyal supporter of former president Wade and served as a minister in his government for many years. His decision last year to run for president led to his banishment from the party, as Wade wanted his son Karim to represent PDS in the race.

The polls are expected to be peaceful.