Senegal president Sall to implement court order reversing election delay

Senegal's President Macky Sall addresses the 35th ordinary session of the Assembly of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on February 6, 2022 [File: Tiksa Negeri/Reuters]

The delay threw Senegal, usually seen as one of the most stable West African countries, into political turmoil.

Senegal’s President Macky Sall on Friday pledged to organise presidential elections “as soon as possible” after the Constitutional Council overruled his decision to delay this month’s vote.

“The President of the Republic intends to fully implement the decision of the Constitutional Council,” the presidency said in a statement. “To this end, the Head of State will without delay carry out the consultations necessary to organise the presidential election as soon as possible”.

The Council, Senegal’s top election authority, on Thursday voided the government’s postponement of a presidential election scheduled for February 25 and its rescheduling for December 15, ruling that the moves were unconstitutional.

The constitutional council cancelled the decree Sall signed earlier this month that postponed the election, according to a judgement approved by seven members of the body and seen by the Associated Press.

The National Assembly’s decision on February 5 to reschedule the vote was “contrary to the constitution,” the judgement said. “The constitutional council, noting the impossibility of organising the presidential election on the date initially planned, invites the competent authorities to hold it as soon as possible,” it added.

The constitutional council also reiterated the fixed nature of the five-year presidential term.

Opposition figures praised the court’s ruling on Thursday.

“This is a decision that puts Senegal back on track. I’m not surprised because everything that was happening was too big,” former prime minister Aminata Toure, who has joined the opposition, told AFP.

In a statement on Friday, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) which had urged Sall to stick to the election timetable, said it noted the court’s decision and “calls on the competent authorities to set a date for the presidential election in accordance with the decision.”

The postponement has thrown the country, usually seen as one of the most stable in West Africa, into political turmoil, with three people killed and dozens arrested during protests.

Opposition and civil society groups have issued new calls for demonstrations and a peaceful march organised by a civil society collective is planned for Saturday.

The council’s decision was published as several jailed government opponents were released from prison in an apparent effort by Sall to appease public opinion.

“Most of my clients in politically motivated cases have been released,” lawyer Cheikh Koureissi Ba told AFP, adding that this concerned several dozen detainees.

A list of several released opposition figures was given to AFP by another lawyer, Moussa Sarr.

The list included Aliou Sane, coordinator of the citizens’ opposition movement “Y’en a marre” (I’m fed up); Djamil Sane, mayor of a Dakar neighbourhood; and several members of the dissolved opposition party Pastef, which is headed by opposition figurehead Ousmane Sonko.

“As a result of international pressure, President Macky Sall is ordering some releases,” said Souleymane Djim, a member of a group of families of political prisoners.

Sonko – who is one of Sall’s leading opponents – and his second in command, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, have been imprisoned since 2023.

There is currently no news of their possible release.

Several hundred opposition members have been arrested since 2021, when Sonko began a standoff with the government that sparked deadly unrest.



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