Senegal opposition says President Sall is too slow scheduling vote

By Thomson Reuters Feb 21, 2024 | 6:01 AM

DAKAR (Reuters) – Opposition candidates in Senegal’s presidential election have accused the authorities of dragging their feet on setting a new date for the vote after a court ruled that a 10-month postponement was unlawful.

President Macky Sall last week promised he would abide by the Constitutional Council’s request for the vote to be scheduled as soon as possible.

The court blocked Sall’s parliament-backed decree to postpone the election, originally scheduled for Feb. 25.

Sall faced significant domestic and international pressure to accept the council’s ruling after the crisis triggered violent street protests and warnings of authoritarian overreach in one of coup-hit West Africa’s more stable democracies.

But a new date has yet to be set, stoking concern among opposition candidates, some of whom are pushing for the election to take place before Sall’s mandate ends on April 2.

In a joint statement late on Tuesday, 16 of the 19 presidential contenders complained about an “inexplicable slowness” enacting the council’s ruling.

They said the slow resumption of electoral operations showed Sall’s unwillingness to launch a process that would lead to a change of power.

The presidency did not respond to a request for comment.

Asked in a press conference on Tuesday about the end of Sall’s mandate on April 2, Justice Minister Aïssata Tall Sall said it was up for debate.

“I do not know if the presidential election will happen (before April 2),” she said.

“But as for those who say there will be a power vacuum from April 2… it’s a debate between lawyers and constitutional experts,” she added.

Senegal had never previously delayed a presidential vote and many of the opposition saw the attempted postponement as an effort by the president to extend his mandate via an “institutional coup.”

Sall, 62, is not standing for re-election, having reached the constitutional limit of two terms in power.

He has said the vote’s postponement was needed due to a dispute over the candidate list and alleged corruption within the Constitutional Council, which it denies.

The Constitutional Council published an amended list of 19 presidential candidates on Tuesday that was almost unchanged from the original. Just one candidate was removed because she had withdrawn her application.

(Reporting by Ngouda Dione and Portia Crowe; Writing by Sofia Christensen; Editing by Crystal Chesters)