Senegal Votes in an Election That Almost Didn’t Happen

She had badgered her friends and family to persuade them to vote for a major change of government. And on Friday, Aminata Faye, 22, stood at the front of a stadium in Senegal, in the city of Mbour, waiting to hear the opposition politician who had inspired her — and his presidential candidate — in the last stop in a breakneck campaign.

“They’re the only ones saying they’re going to change the system,” said Ms. Faye, a college student.

The West African nation of Senegal votes for a new president Sunday, in an election that many young people see as a chance to overhaul the political and economic order. And it has been a nail-biting run-up.

Last month, the incumbent president, Macky Sall, had called off the election with only three weeks to go. Then he agreed to hold it after all. And suddenly, last week, he released from jail the pugnacious opposition figure many see as his nemesis — Ousmane Sonko — along with the man Mr. Sonko is backing for president, Bassirou Diomaye Faye.

The whiplash-inducing twists and turns have left many Senegalese relieved that the election is happening at all, and that so far their widely lauded democracy appears to be still intact.

While there are 19 candidates in all, many experts think the election will go to a runoff between Mr. Faye and the governing party candidate, Prime Minister Amadou Ba. It is prohibited to publish opinion polls in Senegal during election season, so there is nothing concrete to indicate who is favored win.

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