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May 27, 2024

Chaos in Senegal as Parliament Delays Election and Extends President’s Term

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Feb 6, 2024

Background of Political Crisis

Tensions have been building in Senegal over President Macky Sall’s time in office. Sall was elected in 2012 and re-elected in 2019 after changing the constitution to allow himself to run for a second term. Many accused him of a power grab and worries grew that he would try to extend his rule further despite a two-term limit [1].

Opposition groups and civil society organizations accused Sall of restricting political freedoms and using the judicial system to sideline political rivals after prominent opposition figures were jailed on charges viewed as politically motivated [2]. This set the stage for a contentious election in 2024 which the opposition hoped would lead to Sall’s ouster.

However, Sall threw the electoral process into disarray in early February 2023 by announcing the cancellation of the scheduled February 25 election due to delays in issuing voter ID cards and other “unforeseen” circumstances [3]. This sparked outrage among the opposition who accused Sall of intentionally sabotaging the vote. Protesters took to the streets accusing Sall of attempting to cling to power beyond his mandate [4].

Chaotic Parliamentary Session to Delay Election

On February 5th, Senegal’s parliament convened a chaotic extraordinary session to vote on delaying the election by 10 months until December 2024 while also extending Sall’s mandate beyond its expiration in April 2024 [5]. The session erupted into conflict as opposition lawmakers attempted to block the voting process [6]. Internet and cell service were restricted across Dakar making communication difficult [7].

Outside the National Assembly building, riot police fired tear gas at hundreds of protesters who threw rocks and burned tires [8]. Opposition leaders called for continued demonstrations against what they termed a “constitutional coup” [9]. Clashes left at least three dead and dozens injured [10].

Amidst the upheaval, the ruling Benno Bokk Yakaar coalition forced through a bill delaying the vote until December 24, 2023 while allowing Sall to remain in office until the new president is sworn in. Opposition lawmakers boycotted the session in protest but could not prevent the passing of the legislation [11].

| Key Details of Passed Legislation |
|-|
| Delay of Presidential Vote | December 24, 2023 |
| Extension of President Sall’s Term | Until next president sworn in |
|New Legislature Elections|July 30, 2023|

International observers roundly condemned the turmoil and electoral delay. The African Union called for Senegal to set “a realistic timeline” for holding inclusive elections [12]. France urged elections be held “as soon as possible” [13]. Meanwhile the opposition vowed to fight the “unconstitutional” mandate extension [14].

Opposition Calls for Continued Protests and Civil Disobedience

Following the legislative action, opposition leaders rejected the election delay and announced plans for continuing demonstrations and acts of civil disobedience until their demands for Sall to step down are met [15]. They called for nationwide protests on February 8th, urging supporters to mobilize en masse [16].

Among the opposition, Ousmane Sonko, who placed third in the 2019 election, could stand to benefit the most from new elections [17]. The young political star gained immense popularity from his outsider image and tapping into youth dissatisfaction with Sall’s rule. It remains to be seen if the opposition can transform public outrage over the delayed election into a groundswell of support to unseat Sall when elections are eventually held.

Some analysts warned that Sall’s actions risk destabilizing what had been one of West Africa’s most stable democracies and spurring further unrest [18]. The delay also hampers economic progress and efforts to alleviate poverty according to critics [19]. Businesses face uncertainty while inflation remains high at around 9-10% [20].

Religious leaders issued an appeal for calm and constructive dialogue but made clear that the country faces a precarious situation [21]. With neither side backing down an end to the political impasse remains unclear. The opposition hopes it can force Sall’s hand through protests and civil disobedience but much depends on protest stamina and restraint by security forces [22].

What Comes Next?

In the immediate term, all eyes will be on the February 8th protests to gauge the opposition’s ability to mobilize mass support and follow through on civil disobedience pledges [23]. Harsh crackdowns by security forces could quickly escalate tensions.

Further election delays cannot be ruled out either. The opposition worries Sall will drag his feet on electoral preparations and intentionally create conditions to justify pushing back the newly set December 2024 date [24].

If protests fizzle out, Sall could ride out the unrest and continue ruling while splintered opposition groups fail to effectively counter him [25]. However, this risks Sall becoming further viewed as an illegitimate usurper presiding over a downward economic spiral.

If mass protests persist, Sall risks having his authority severely undercut. Widespread strikes and shutdowns could bring the economy to its knees forcing him to relent. However, he has shown his willingness to respond forcefully to protect his interests.

Any compromise seems unlikely in the polarized climate. The opposition wants Sall immediately out of office while Sall rejected demands for dialogue and shows no indication of bowing to pressure [26].

While the endgame remains uncertain, Senegal likely faces many difficult days ahead with democracy hanging in the balance. The country long seen as a pillar of stability in West Africa now faces its greatest political crisis in decades with repercussions likely to be felt across the region.

References

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/03/world/africa/senegal-president-cancels-election.html

[2] https://www.economist.com/middle-east-and-africa/2024/02/04/senegals-democracy-hangs-by-a-thread

[3] https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2024/02/03/senegal-elections-delay-macky-sall/

[4] https://www.africanews.com/2024/02/05/senegal-police-fire-tear-gas-at-protest-against-election-postponement//

[5] https://www.aljazeera.com/amp/news/2024/2/6/senegal-parliament-delays-election-to-december-15-after-chaotic-vote

[6] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/senegal-president-macky-sall-postpones-national-election-indefinitely/

[7] https://twitter.com/netblocks/status/1754538470003835285

[8] https://www.ctinsider.com/news/world/article/opposition-leaders-reject-postponement-of-senegal-18647385.php

[9] https://www.fox41yakima.com/clashes-as-senegal-parliament-debates-presidential-poll-delay/

[10] https://www.barrons.com/news/clashes-in-senegalese-capital-after-postponement-of-presidential-election-68f58bdf

[11] https://finance.yahoo.com/news/senegal-lawmakers-approve-ten-month-230956400.html

[12] https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/senegal-should-hold-presidential-vote-soon-possible-african-union-2024-02-05/

[13] https://www.voanews.com/amp/france-calls-for-postponed-senegal-vote-to-be-held-as-soon-as-possible-/7470190.html

[14] https://ny1.com/nyc/bronx/ap-top-news/2024/02/05/senegals-government-cuts-internet-access-as-lawmakers-debate-bill-on-election-delay

[15] https://www.bostonglobe.com/2024/02/04/world/opposition-leaders-reject-postponement-senegal-election-west-african-bloc-urges-dialogue/

[16] https://twitter.com/Omojuwa/status/1753850097685688804

[17] https://www.economist.com/middle-east-and-africa/2024/02/04/senegals-democracy-hangs-by-a-thread

[18] https://www.france24.com/en/tv-shows/the-debate/20240205-democracy-on-hold-senegal-opposition-outraged-over-plan-to-delay-election

[19] https://www.theafricareport.com/335917/macky-sall-has-joined-the-ranks-of-the-coup-plotters-thierno-alassane-sall/

[20] https://www.cnn.com/2024/02/05/africa/senegal-parliament-debates-extending-presidents-mandate-intl/index.html

[21] https://international.la-croix.com/news/politics/religious-leaders-in-senegal-concerned-over-presidential-election-postponement/19126

[22] https://www.semafor.com/article/02/05/2024/senegals-parliament-mulls-extension-to-presidents-tenure

[23] https://twitter.com/KenRoth/status/1754082337380250007

[24] https://www.wral.com/story/senegal-faces-political-crisis-as-president-macky-sall-delays-polls/21269031/

[25] https://worldview.stratfor.com/situation-report/senegal-president-sall-postpones-elections-six-months

[26] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-68209178

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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