Senegal president pledges to hold election ‘as soon as possible’


Protesters shouted as they demonstrated during a march, calling on authorities to respect the election date in Dakar on 16 February 2024.


Protesters shouted as they demonstrated during a march, calling on authorities to respect the election date in Dakar on 16 February 2024.

  • Senegal’s President Macky
    Sall promises to hold presidential elections “as soon as possible”.
  • This after the country’s top
    constitutional body’s decision to overrule his decision to delay the vote until
    December.
  • The decision to delay the
    election triggered deadly protests in the country, with opposition calling it a
    “constitutional coup”.

Senegalese
President Macky Sall, who faces mounting pressure at home and abroad, vowed
Friday to organise presidential elections “as soon as possible” after
the top constitutional body overruled his decision to delay this month’s vote.

Sall’s
last-minute move to postpone the 25 February poll until December triggered
Senegal’s worst crisis in decades.

The
decision sparked a widespread outcry and deadly protests in what is often seen
as a bastion of stability in coup-hit West Africa.

The
Constitutional Council’s ruling Thursday to annul the vote delay plunged the
country into further uncertainty.

“The
president of the republic intends to fully implement the decision of the
Constitutional Council,” the presidency said in a statement.

“To
this end, the head of state will without delay carry out the consultations
necessary to organise the presidential election as soon as possible.”

Sall, who
has been in power since 2012, said he called off this month’s vote over
disputes about the disqualification of potential candidates and concern about a
return to unrest seen in 2021 and 2023.

Parliament
later approved the delay until 15 December, but only after security forces
entered the building and removed some opposition lawmakers who opposed the
bill.

The vote
paved the way for Sall – whose second term is due to expire in April – to
remain in office until a successor was installed.

Easing tensions

Three
people have been killed during demonstrations against the vote delay, with
security forces repressing attempts to mobilise.

Few people
responded to calls for protests in the capital Dakar on Friday, AFP journalists
saw, with the few dozen who turned up dispersed by police with tear gas.

Protesters ran from teargas during a march calling

Protesters ran from teargas during a march calling on authorities to respect the election date in Dakar on 16 February 2024.

A silent
protest march planned for Saturday in Dakar has been authorised, unlike those
in recent weeks, Elimane Kane, of the Aar Sunu Election (Let’s protect our
election) collective that organised it, told AFP.

The
opposition had decried Sall’s move as a “constitutional coup”, saying
his party feared defeat at the ballot box for its candidate, Prime Minister
Amadou Ba.

Sall’s term
in office officially expires on 2 April and the head of state has repeatedly
said he will not stand for a third term.

The
Constitutional Council reiterated the fixed nature of the five-year
presidential term.

‘Historic’

Senegal
faced growing calls from major international partners to swiftly organise the
vote.

The West
African regional bloc, ECOWAS, the European Union, France, Britain and the
United States have all called on the authorities to comply with the Council’s
ruling.

“We
urge all stakeholders to come together in the spirit of Senegal’s strong
democratic tradition to support a free and fair election conducted in a
peaceful and timely manner,” US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller
said in a statement.

The UN also
urged all parties to “ensure the holding of an inclusive and transparent
presidential election within the framework of the constitution of
Senegal.”

People
interviewed by AFP in the streets of Dakar expressed relief at the move.

“It’s
good that the Constitutional Council made the decision it did, at least we’re half-way
to the right solution,” said 55-year-old Mamadou Caba.

Babacar
Gueye, a coordinator of the Aar Sunu Election collective, described the
Council’s decision as “historic”.

“The
Council did not set a deadline, it simply said ‘as soon as possible’. This
means both quickly and under the right conditions,” said Gueye.

The
Constitutional Council in January approved 20 candidates to run in the
presidential election.

It remains
to be seen whether the same list of candidates will be put forward again and
when the vote will take place.

Discussions

Government spokesperson
Abdou Karim Fofana said he foresaw discussions between the president and
political players that “will enable things to be organised”.

The
president “must make arrangements for us to discuss and see how to
implement the Council’s decision,” Khalifa Sall, one of the principal
presidential candidates, who is not related to the current president, told
journalists.

He did not
say whether the election should take place before or after President Sall’s
departure.

But he
added that when the president’s mandate ends on 2 April, Sall “must
go”.

Amadou Ba,
the representative of detained opposition figure Bassirou Diomaye Faye, said,
“Macky (Sall) must organise the presidential election before the end of
his mandate,” the Walf newspaper reported.

Faye is
second-in-command of the dissolved PASTEF party, which has been involved in a
bitter stand-off with the state since 2021, sparking sometimes deadly unrest.

Hundreds of
party supporters and civil society members have been arrested.

More than
130 of them have been released from prison since Thursday and around 90 more
were due to be freed on Friday, according to the justice ministry.



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