Senegal: The date of the presidential election remains unknown

Senegal: The date of the presidential election remains unknown

President Macky Sall confirmed during an interview with the Senegalese press this Thursday, February 22, the end of his mandate on April 2 without setting the date of the next presidential elections. The national consultation, starting Monday February 26, is largely rejected.

After the weeks of serious crisis that Senegal is going through, a consequence of the postponement of the presidential elections of February 25, the population and the opposition were suspended from the announcements of President Macky Sall this Thursday, February 22, hoping for an epilogue. But the interview given by the Head of State to the Senegalese press did not remove the vagueness, the president passing the responsibility for the choice of an election date to the holding of a national consultation. This should begin Monday February 26 for two days.

If uncertainties remain about the date of the elections, the president assured that “April 2, 2024 will be the end of my mandate”. A reaffirmation of leaving power which however does not appear so clear-cut. The question of the transition, and therefore of a possible extension of his functions, remains unresolved. By not quickly determining a new date, it seems increasingly complicated to meet the deadlines for an election before April 2. Just after having assured that “the election can be held before or after April 2”, the president said he doubted the possibility of a vote before this date. What would happen then? “It is clear that the country cannot remain without a president “, he argued, before twice recalling article 36, paragraph 2 of the Constitution. This indicates that “the current President of the Republic remains in office until the installation of his successor”.

A consultation rejected

Rather than deciding alone, the president preferred to hold a “national consultation” from February 26. The 19 candidates selected by the Constitutional Council, but also those rejected, civil society, religious people and even unions, are thus convened to decide on the date of the election. “The date cannot be set until we have each other’s arguments,” argued the president, ensuring that as soon as a consensus is found, he will immediately issue a decree to convene the electoral body. Achieving this consensus, however, appears unlikely as the points of view diverge: the candidates are pleading for an election as quickly as possible while those who have been rejected are calling for the entire electoral process to be restarted from scratch, which would thus modify the list of candidates. candidates for the supreme office and would postpone the holding of presidential elections. In the absence of consensus, “the Constitutional Council will advise”, said Macky Sall.

Another problem, and a major one: 16 of the 19 candidates in the presidential election, as well as the civil society collective Aar Sunu Election, refuse to participate in this consultation and demand that an election be held before April 2. The collective denounces a “attempted diversion through invitation to inappropriate dialogue (which) is unacceptable”. The Front of candidates for the presidential election of February 25 already castigated “an inexplicable slowness” in the organization of the election. “The president is killing his own institutions,” said Boubacar Camara, presidential candidate. By its decision of February 15 to cancel the postponement of the presidential elections to December 15, the Constitutional Council, recognizing the impossibility of maintaining the elections on the initial date of February 25, in fact ordered the President of the Republic to organize “as soon as possible” the ballot, while recalling that this election had to take place before the end of the presidential term on April 2. The opposition and civil society have called for continued mobilization as several demonstrations are planned over the coming days.

Peacemaking and reconciliation

During his exchange with the press, Macky Sall affirmed a desire for relaxation and appeasement of the social climate. Usually addressing a firm speech against the ex-Pastef, Ousmane Sonko’s party, he made a turning point by saying he was ready to allow the provisional release of this opponent incarcerated since July 2023 and rendered ineligible. , as well as his heir apparent, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, imprisoned since April 2023 and presidential candidate. A release that would allow them to participate in the consultation.

Since the end of last week, with this in mind to ease the tension, around 400 detainees, arrested during the riots of March 2021, June 2023 but also February, have been released. “The country needs reconciliation. We will take steps to achieve this pardon, including by all legal means that this will allow. If it helps to avoid what we are experiencing today, I am ready to go that far so that everyone benefits from forgiveness,” indicated Macky Sall. He also announced that an amnesty law was under discussion and denounced a “nauseating international campaign, maintained to create tension and destabilization” from Senegal.

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