Photo: Amanuel Sileshi Agence France-Presse President Macky Sall announced on Saturday, a few hours before the official opening of the electoral campaign, to repeal the decree setting the presidential election for February 25.
Malick Rokhy Ba – Agence France-Presse in Dakar
February 4, 2024
Senegal's opposition is calling for protests in Dakar on Sunday and plans to launch the election campaign as planned, rejecting President Macky Sall's decision to postpone the February 25 presidential election, an unprecedented decision that sparked an outcry.
The announcement made on Saturday in a context of political crisis by the president elected in 2012 and re-elected in 2019 also caused concern abroad.
It once again plunges this country, known as an island of stability in Africa, into the unknown, but which has experienced various episodes of deadly unrest since 2021.
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Several opposition candidates announced on Sunday that they will override President Sall's decision and maintain the launch of their electoral campaign on Sunday.
“We systematically reject the decree [postponing the presidential election]. We are meeting all Senegalese people this Sunday for a march in Dakar, said Cheikh Tidiane Youm, an opposition spokesperson on private radio RFM.
“We met and agreed to gather from 3 p.m. [local and GMT] to start our [electoral] campaign collectively,” said Habib Sy, one of the 20 candidates who were to compete, on the same radio. to the ballot.
Senegalese opponent Khalifa Sall, one of the main presidential candidates, called on the entire country on Saturday to “stand up” against the postponement of the vote.
“Period of uncertainty”
The European Union said on Sunday that the postponement of the presidential election opens a “period of uncertainty” in the country, calling for elections “as soon as possible”.
France previously called on Senegal to remove the “uncertainties” created by the postponement so that the vote could be held “as soon as possible”.
The United States, “deeply concerned,” on Saturday urged political actors “to engage peacefully” to “quickly set a new date and conditions for a free and fair election.”
For its part, the regional organization ECOWAS expressed its “concern” and asked the authorities to work to quickly set a new date.
President Sall announced on Saturday, a few hours before the official opening of the campaign, to repeal the decree setting the presidential election for February 25.
This is the first time since 1963 that a presidential election by direct universal suffrage has been postponed in Senegal, a country which has never experienced a coup d'état, a rarity on the continent.
Furthermore, deputies are meeting on Monday to examine the bill tabled by candidate and opponent Karim Wade for the postponement of the presidential election by six months, AFP learned on Saturday from Parliament. The text must be approved by 3/5 of the 165 deputies to be validated.
Separation of powers
President Sall invoked the conflict which broke out between the Constitutional Council and the National Assembly after the final validation by the court of 20 candidacies and the elimination of several dozen others.
At the initiative of Karim Wade, a failed candidate who questioned the integrity of two constitutional judges and demanded the postponement of the election, the Assembly approved the creation of a commission investigation into the conditions for validating applications.
Against all expectations, the deputies from the presidential camp supported the approach. It provoked a heated argument over the separation of powers, but also fueled suspicion of a government plan to postpone the presidential election and avoid defeat. The candidate of the presidential camp, Prime Minister Amadou Ba, is contested within his own ranks and faces dissidents.
On the contrary, the anti-system Bassirou Diomaye Faye, whose candidacy was validated by the Constitutional Council although he has been imprisoned since 2023, has established himself in recent weeks as a credible candidate for victory, a nightmare scenario for the presidential camp.
Senegal cannot “afford a new crisis” after deadly unrest in March 2021 and June 2023, said President Sall, announcing “a national dialogue” for “a free, transparent and inclusive election” and reiterating his commitment not to not be a candidate.
According to the electoral code, a decree setting the date of a new presidential election must be published no later than 80 days before the election, which would lead to the end of April in the best case scenario, a scenario almost impossible.
President Sall therefore risks remaining in office beyond the end of his term on April 2.