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June 24, 2024

Senegal’s President Sall Postpones Controversial Election Indefinitely

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Feb 3, 2024

Senegalese President Macky Sall has postponed the country’s presidential election indefinitely, just over two weeks before the scheduled February 25th vote. The dramatic move comes amidst controveries over the candidate list and integrity of the electoral process.

Background Context

Senegal has been considered one of West Africa’s most stable democracies, with a history of peaceful transfers of power. President Sall was elected to his first term in 2012 and won re-election in 2019.

However, Sall has faced growing criticism that he plans to violate term limits and run for a third term in this year’s election. The Senegalese constitution restricts presidents to two consecutive five-year terms, but it is unclear if Sall could run again after sitting out a term.

The election was expected to be tightly contested between Sall’s ruling party and leading opposition candidates such as Ousmane Sonko, who was barred from running last month over a dismissed rape charge. Sonko maintains that the charges were politically motivated to prevent him from challenging Sall.

Election Postponed Over Candidate List Controversies

In an official statement broadcast on state television on Saturday, Sall cited issues with the candidacy review process as justification for delaying the vote.

“I have decided to act so that all candidates who wish to participate in the election are allowed to do so,” Sall said.

The unusual move came after weeks of tension and protests over Senegal’s Constitutional Court validating only four of seven candidates who filed to run in the election. In particular, the rejection of Sonko and two other opposition figures due to criminal convictions or charges angered their supporters and raised accusations of bias favoring Sall.

Sall did not provide a new election date or details on how the issue with the candidate review would be resolved. The postponement is indefinite for now.

Opposition leaders and activists viewed the last-minute delay as an attempt by Sall to buy time and strategize amidst a weakening position. However, other opposition factions welcomed the additional scrutiny into candidacy approvals.

Mixed Reactions from Opposition

Reactions to Sall’s election postponement decree have been mixed amongst the Senegalese opposition.

Sonko’s supporters held defiant protests on Saturday condemning the move as “delaying tactics” to manipulate the race. They urged continued resistance against Sall rather than waiting on a new election date.

However, representatives of opposition candidate Issa Sall endorsed the review of candidate admissibility. Campaign spokesman Baba Diop stated:

“We think it’s a step forward for democracy. It’s a good decision for transparency on the part of President Sall.”

The opposition remains fractured without a consolidated front behind one candidate to oppose Sall, particularly following Sonko’s exclusion. But there is shared concern across factions about Sall consolidating power for a third term. Most still view the delayed election with skepticism.

Ibrahima Hamidou Dème of the Party for Truth and Development summarized the prevailing opposition sentiment:

“We are not going to wait years for an election. Macky Sall must organize elections this year at the latest.”

Opposition Faction Position on Election Delay
Ousmane Sonko supporters Opposed – Condemned as manipulation tactic
Issa Sall campaign Endorsed – Welcomed review of approvals
Other opposition parties Skeptical – Demand vote in 2024

Protests and Minister Resignations

Angry Sonko supporters marched in Dakar and other cities over the weekend contesting Sall’s decision. Police dispersed crowds with tear gas as some protesters threw stones and burned tires. At least five protestors were arrested in the capital as unrest persists.

Additionally, Foreign Minister Aissata Tall Sall resigned in protest of the election postponement. The move signals further political divisions and instability within Sall’s governing coalition. Other ministers or deputies could follow Tall Sall’s resignation.

Experts warn the risk of political violence could increase given the charged reactions around contested candidate eligibility. There are also economic concerns that instability and uncertainty could negatively impact markets and currency valuation.

What Next for Senegalese Politics?

It remains unclear when Sall plans to hold the delayed election amid a chaotic political environment. The indefinite postponement worries many Senegalese fearing a power grab to extend Sall’s rule.

The coming days and weeks will indicate whether comprehensive reforms are enacted to increase transparency in the candidate review process. If meaningful changes do occur to ease eligibility restrictions, the election could be re-scheduled for late 2024.

However, if an election date is not set this year or reforms fail to materialize, protests and opposition calls for Sall to stand down will likely accelerate. Widespread civil unrest and violence cannot be ruled out given the high tensions and accusations of undemocratic behavior.

For Sall, buying time with an election delay could backfire if unrest continues hampering Senegal’s reputation for democratic values. But he may also succeed in dividing the opposition without a unifying challenger. How Sall proceeds from this precarious position will determine the nation’s political stability.

The postponed election leaves much uncertain about both Senegal’s leadership in 2024 as well as the fragility of its celebrated democracy model in West Africa. Many Senegalese and international observers fear this crisis of election integrity may undermine decades of political progress.

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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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