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Election delay triggers mass protests

Citing concerns about the disqualification of two opposition candidates the outgoing president holds up the vote

President Macky Sall's postponing of the presidential election scheduled for 25 February risks plunging Senegal into a deeper political confrontation.

After violent protests in Dakar over the weekend, parliamentarians met on 5 February to discuss the crisis. President Sall's mandate ends on 2 April.

When the sitting of the national assembly threatened to get out of hand – some opposition MPs were ejected and protestors were teargassed outside the building – pro-government MPs agreed to reschedule the elections to 15 December.

The government also moved to suspend access to the mobile internet citing the 'dissemination of several hateful and subversive messages relayed on social networks in the context of threats and disturbances to public order.'

Sall has promised to 'engage in an open national dialogue to bring together the conditions for a free, transparent and inclusive election.'

The decision by the constitutional court to rule as ineligible most of the more than 80 candidates who sought to stand in the first ballot, including opposition Pastef les Patriotes leader Ousmane Sonko and Karim Wade, was presented as the rationale behind Sall's decision (AC Vol 65 No 3, A crowded field).

When he postponed the polls, Sall cited a dispute between the judiciary and federal MPs over disqualification ruled and the reported dual nationality of some qualified candidates, a reference to Wade's case.

Wade's party, Parti démocratique sénégalais, had previously demanded the vote be postponed.

The United States's Department of State noted Senegal's 'strong tradition of democracy and peaceful transitions of power' in a post on X, which urged 'all participants in [the] electoral process to engage peacefully to swiftly set a new date and the conditions for a timely, free and fair election.'

African Union Commission chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat, meanwhile, has called on Senegal's government to hold the election 'in transparency, peace and national harmony.'

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