President Macky Sall delays Feb. 25 vote over judicial dispute
Senegal’s President Macky Sall has announced the postponement of the presidential election scheduled for Feb. 25, citing a dispute between the parliament and the judiciary over the electoral code. The decision has sparked protests and clashes in the capital Dakar and other cities, as opposition leaders and supporters reject the delay and accuse Sall of trying to extend his tenure beyond the constitutional limit of two terms.
Sall, who came to power in 2012, is seeking a second term in office. He has faced criticism for disqualifying two of his main rivals, former Prime Minister Idrissa Seck and former Mayor of Dakar Khalifa Sall, on corruption charges. The opposition has denounced the charges as politically motivated and called for their release.
The postponement of the election has also drawn the attention of the international community, especially the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which has urged all parties to engage in dialogue and respect the rule of law. The United States, a key ally of Senegal, has also expressed its concern over the situation and called for a swift resolution of the crisis.
Opposition candidates vow to continue their campaigns
Despite the postponement, some of the opposition candidates have declared that they will continue their campaigns and mobilize their supporters to defend democracy. Among them are Thierno Alassane Sall, a former minister and no relation to the president, and Ousmane Sonko, a former tax inspector and anti-corruption activist. Both have attracted large crowds in their rallies and challenged the president’s record on governance, security, and development.
“We will not accept this coup d’etat against the people. We will start our campaign and we call on all candidates to do the same. We will not let Macky Sall steal our victory,” Sonko said in a statement on Sunday.
Thierno Alassane Sall also denounced the postponement as a violation of the constitution and urged the citizens to resist the president’s “dictatorship”.
“I am launching my electoral campaign tomorrow, in Dakar, with the candidates who have chosen to defend the constitution. We will not let Macky Sall impose his will on us. We will not let him destroy our democracy,” he said on Saturday.
Police fire tear gas at protesters as tensions escalate
The defiance of the opposition has led to confrontations with the security forces, who have fired tear gas and arrested dozens of protesters in Dakar and other cities. The protesters have burned tires, blocked roads, and thrown stones at the police, demanding the respect of the electoral calendar and the release of the detained opposition leaders.
The clashes have also resulted in injuries and deaths, according to human rights groups and local media. Amnesty International has reported that at least four people have been killed and dozens injured since the start of the protests on Thursday. The organization has called on the authorities to respect the right to peaceful assembly and refrain from using excessive force.
“The Senegalese authorities must urgently de-escalate the situation and ensure that the security forces respect the human rights of protesters and journalists. They must also investigate the allegations of excessive use of force and bring those responsible to justice,” said Samira Daoud, Amnesty International’s West and Central Africa Director.
Senegal’s democracy under threat
The current crisis has raised questions about the state of democracy in Senegal, which is widely regarded as one of the most stable and democratic countries in West Africa. Senegal has a history of peaceful transitions of power since its independence from France in 1960, and has never experienced a military coup or a civil war.
However, analysts warn that the postponement of the election and the crackdown on the opposition could undermine the country’s democratic credentials and reputation. They also point out that the crisis comes at a time when the region is facing a resurgence of coups and instability, as seen in Mali, Guinea, and Burkina Faso.
“Senegal is a beacon of democracy in West Africa, but this crisis could tarnish its image and credibility. It could also have negative consequences for the stability and security of the country and the region, especially with the threat of terrorism and violent extremism,” said Dr. Abdoulaye Saine, a professor of political science and an expert on Senegal at Miami University.
He added that the best way to resolve the crisis is through dialogue and compromise, and urged the president and the opposition to put the interest of the nation above their personal ambitions.
“The president should reconsider his decision and respect the electoral timetable. He should also release the opposition leaders and create a level playing field for all candidates. The opposition should also act responsibly and peacefully, and avoid any provocation or violence. The people of Senegal deserve a free and fair election that reflects their will and aspirations,” he said.