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Iran election: The view from Dakar

The situation in Iran doesn’t seem to have sparked overwhelming interest in Dakar.

Senegal is literally sandwiched by two contentious upcoming elections in its own region: Guinea Bissau’s to the south on June 28 and Mauritania’s to the north on July 18.

In May, Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade — flexing his diplomatic muscles — brokered a last-minute power-sharing deal in Mauritania, after opposition parties threatened to boycott national elections, originally scheduled for June 6.

The tense political situation in Mauritania and the death of Gabon’s president, Omar Bongo, continue to dominate international news coverage, though wire stories about Iran have also been appearing in Senegalese papers.

Senegal and Iran are pretty chummy. They are both active members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and Wade and Iran’s Ahmadinejad have repeatedly pledged to strengthen existing economic and political ties, with Dakar offering Iran a natural gateway to African markets. An Iranian car manufacturing plant in Thies, outside Dakar, now produces thousands of cars each year for distribution in Africa. There has also been talk of Iran building an oil refinery in Senegal, among other energy-related projects.

So, the questions I’m left with are these: What could a regime shift in Iran have meant for that country’s investment in Senegal? Will those economic ties affect Senegal’s take on the contested election results?

President Wade is currently in Gabon along with 14 other heads of state for Bongo’s funeral. Wade is known as a diplomatic leader in the region, and I’m interested to see what, if any, reaction he will have to events in Iran, but nothing has come out yet.

See here for an overview of local reaction around the world.