Senegal: Presidential elections postponed the day before the campaign launch

Senegal: Presidential elections postponed the day before the campaign launch

The President of the Senegalese Republic announced on February 3 the repeal of the decree setting the presidential elections for February 25, without giving further details on the new date. This is the first time that presidential elections have been postponed in this country with a long democratic tradition. The postponement was massively criticized by the opposition but also citizens.

“An institutional coup d’état”, “a high treason”, “an attack on democratic rights”, the outraged reactions of Senegalese politicians were not long in coming following the speech by Senegalese President Macky Sall this Saturday, February 3. Even as the twenty candidates in the running were preparing to begin the presidential campaign on Sunday February 4, the president in an address to the nation announced the repeal of the decree summoning the electorate for February 25, the date of the presidential election. . No date for a new vote has yet been announced. “ I will initiate an open national dialogue in order to create the conditions for a free, transparent and inclusive election », specified Macky Sall who also reaffirmed that “ his solemn commitment not to run for president “. He had in fact announced last July that he would not run for a third term.

A worrying first

If Senegal has already experienced moments of serious tension in the run-up to electoral events, this postponement of the presidential elections is a first in a country with a long democratic tradition which is an example of stability in a region shaken by coups d’état. The decision was widely stunned. “ It’s a shock because the Senegalese never thought this could happen to them. The Senegalese exception takes a big blow » reports Babacar Ndiaye, political analyst at the Wathi think tank. Discontent was quickly expressed through social networks.

Rumors confirmed

If the announcement of the postponement came as a surprise, the controversies of the previous days had nevertheless fueled rumors about a possible cancellation or postponement of the election. Ousmane Sonko, main opponent of President Macky Sall, and Karim Wade, son of former President Abdoulaye Wade, had been excluded from the presidential race: the first because of his conviction for defamation and the second because of dual nationality Franco-Senegalese. Around forty other applications were also rejected. A parliamentary commission of inquiry to shed light on Karim Wade’s accusations of corruption against the Constitutional Council in the process of verifying candidacies, was adopted on January 31 by 120 votes to 24. Initiated by the Democratic Party Senegalese (PDS) of Karim Wade, the request was supported by the presidential coalition, even though its own candidate, the PPrime Minister Amadou Ba, was directly targeted by these accusations. Early Saturday morning, the Assembly office notNational Council also validated the Democratic Party’s bill Senegalese (PDS) of Karim Wade for the postponement of the presidential election, for a maximum period of six months.

It is to clarify this situation that he judges “sufficiently serious and confusing » and whose “Troubled conditions could seriously harm the credibility of the vote » that Macky Sall justified the suspension of the February vote. “ The president bases this postponement on speculation, without waiting for the commission’s conclusions », Underlines the political scientist, who explains that it has between three and six months to deliver its verdict.

Strong rejection of the opposition

The nineteen presidential candidates plan to attack the decree as illegal. “ The president is violating the Constitution because he cannot legally postpone an election. He claims a fallacious crisis to justify a postponement » develops Jean-Louis Corréa, law teacher-researcher. United in the categorical rejection of any postponement of the presidential elections, the opposition candidates vying for the vote nevertheless decided to campaign, ignoring the announcement of the postponement of the vote, as initially planned for February 4 and invited the population to join it. Any idea of ​​national dialogue was also firmly rejected.

The decision to postpone risks rekindling tensions and raising fears of an escalation of violence like that of March 2021 and last June which caused the death of dozens of Senegalese, numerous injuries and mass arrests. This decision is also not without economic repercussions with a risk of driving away investors, blocking the country but also the fear of the damage that could be caused. It is also the loss of funding already committed for the electoral campaign, from the administration but also from the candidates. So many factors that could disrupt stability and peace in the country. Finally, this postponement – ​​although the word was not uttered by Macky Sall – seriously damages the image of Senegal abroad, while foreign observers had been dispatched to follow the electoral process.

What’s more, this “postponement” is also seen as a worrying message for ECOWAS of which Senegal remains an essential economic and diplomatic player, while the institution has already been battered for some time and even more so since the announcement of the withdrawal Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger on January 28.

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