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Election crisis poses credibility test to regional bodies

The African Union and Ecowas are facing pressure to intervene on Sall's vote delay

The political crisis following President Macky Sall's decision to postpone February's presidential election will be the subject of formal and informal discussions at this weekend's African Union (AU) summit in Addis Ababa.

The African Union and the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) are under pressure to intervene after pro-government forces in parliament, led by Sall's Benno Bokk Yakaar (BBY) coalition, set a new election date of 15 December, extending Sall's mandate by eight months beyond its official expiry in April.

That has prompted protests in Dakar and eight other cities, the latest of which, on 13 February, led to the deaths of at least three people at the hands of security forces, according to Amnesty International (Dispatches 6/2/24, Election delay triggers mass protests).

The West African Civil Society Forum (Wacsof) said the Sall government had put Senegal on an 'unprecedented and dangerous' path away from the constitution, which could undermine decades of progress.

'Contempt for the constitution is one of the stages preceding dictatorship,' Wacsof said in a statement specifically addressed to Ecowas and the Senegalese people.

The group said that by this action, the Sall administration had violated the AU's charter on democracy, elections and governance as well as Ecowas's protocol on democracy and good governance.

Having been widely criticised for a weak and divided stance on the recent military coups in the region, most recently in Niger last year, the dispute in Senegal is the latest test to the credibility of both Ecowas and the AU. Last week Ecowas foreign ministers criticised the proposed delay to December and urged Senegal to hold the polls as planned on 25 February. In response to the crisis, Nigerian President Bola Tinubu has cancelled a planned visit to Senegal.

BBY should 'take steps urgently to restore the electoral calendar in accordance with the provisions of Senegal's Constitution,' the ministers said in a joint statement.

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