The move to postpone a presidential vote by ten months has heightened tensions in the country
Senegalese authorities must reverse their decision to delay the country’s presidential election by ten months, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) demanded on Tuesday. The parliamentary-approved postponement has sparked outrage in the former French colony, which has been embroiled in deadly protests in recent months.
The West African country had planned to go to the polls on February 25, but President Macky Sall postponed the vote on Saturday, citing a disagreement between the judiciary and federal lawmakers over the exclusion of key opposition candidates from the final electoral register.
A scuffle broke out in the Senegalese parliament on Monday when opposition MPs attempted to block a vote on a bill that rescheduled the election to December 15. Several of the 20 opposition parties and candidates cleared for the presidential race have denounced the delay as an “institutional coup,” with at least three of them reportedly filing legal challenges. Three lawmakers who rebelled against the parliamentary approval were arrested on Tuesday, according to Reuters.
ECOWAS, which has struggled to contain a wave of coups in the region, voiced concern about the political crisis and warned Senegalese officials against violating the country’s constitution.
“The ECOWAS Commission encourages the political class to take steps urgently to restore the electoral calendar in accordance with the provisions of Senegal’s constitution,” the bloc said in a statement.
One of Africa’s most stable democracies, Senegal has never postponed a presidential election since gaining independence from France more than six decades ago. However, the country’s constitution permits the Constitutional Council, the highest election authority, to reschedule the vote in certain circumstances, including “the death, permanent incapacity, or withdrawal” of candidates. President Sall’s tenure had been due to end on April 2, after he announced last year that he would not seek a third term. He has defended the decision to delay the vote, citing fears that electoral disputes would trigger violence.
The situation has sparked broader concern, including from the UN human rights office and the African Union, particularly as ECOWAS struggles to restore democratic rule in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger. The three military-ruled former French colonies have announced plans to withdraw from the bloc, accusing it of being a tool for Western powers.
On Tuesday, the 15-nation regional authority declared that it will “take all necessary steps to support the government and people of Senegal in their efforts to sustain the country’s democratic tradition.”
February 07, 2024 at 08:51PM