Senegal Election: Court Rejects President Macky Sall's Bid to Delay Poll

The decision to postpone this month’s presidential election in Senegal was deemed unconstitutional by the country’s top court.

The Constitutional Council invalidated both President Macky Sall’s decree and a contentious bill passed by parliament that had rescheduled the vote to December. Widespread protests have erupted in the West African country, once considered a bastion of stability in the region.

A leading opposition figure hailed the ruling as “a great day for democracy.” Aminata Touré, a former prime minister and now an opposition figure, expressed her relief, stating, “We’ve been so ashamed by all this violation of the law and the constitution.” Anta Babacar, the only female candidate, echoed these sentiments, saying, “We are actually very, very proud of our Constitutional Council, and it shows that there is at least a little bit of democracy and justice that’s left in our country.”

The immediate focus now is on setting a new election date, according to Babacar. “We feel betrayed” – why anger has engulfed Senegal On 3 February, President Sall announced he was postponing the election date – originally set for 25 February – due to concerns over the eligibility of opposition candidates. His proposal was supported by 105 out of the 165 MPs after a fiery debate that saw police remove some opposition MPs from the chamber. A six-month postponement was initially proposed, but a last-minute amendment extended it to 10 months, setting a new election date of 15 December.

Although Mr. Sall reiterated that he was not planning to run for office again, his critics accused him of either trying to cling on to power or unfairly influencing his successor. Both the US and EU urged Mr. Sall to reconsider.

Opposition candidates and lawmakers filed numerous legal challenges. Khalifa Sall, a leading opponent and former mayor of the capital Dakar, who is not related to the president, described the delay as a “constitutional coup,” while Thierno Alassane Sall, another candidate, also no relation, called it “high treason.”

The Constitutional Council stated that while it was “impossible” for the election to be held on the original date, it urged authorities to organize it “as soon as possible.” Mr. Sall has yet to react to the ruling, but a government spokesperson said it had been “noted.”

The president’s second term expires on 2 April. While the election could be held before then, the disputes that led to the polls being postponed in the first place remain unresolved, including allegations of corruption in the Constitutional Council and objections from opposition figures who had been excluded from the candidate list published last month.

Holding the election using the disputed candidate list could spark renewed unrest and violence by supporters of those barred from contesting, particularly Ousmane Sonko, who has a large and vocal following among young Senegalese. Most candidates have not been campaigning since President Sall issued his decree earlier this month, hours before campaigns were meant to kick off.

The court decision came on the same day as several opposition politicians and civil society members were released from prison, which some in the country viewed as a move to appease public opinion. Senegal had long been seen as one of the most stable democracies in the region. It is the only country in mainland West Africa that has never had a military coup. It has had three largely peaceful handovers of power and until earlier this month had never delayed a presidential election.

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Piers Potter


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