Senegal’s Sall vows to exit office in April but election date still unknown

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Senegalese President Macky Sall says he will leave office when his second term is over in April but hasn't set a date for the election to choose his successor [John Thys/AP]

Opposition groups in Senegal have rejected President Macky Sall’s call for talks on the delayed elections.

Senegalese President Macky Sall says he will end his term in April as expected but has not given a new date for the presidential election originally scheduled for Sunday.

Sall, who is wrapping up two terms in office and has said he would not run again, postponed the election until December, citing unresolved disputes over who could run. But his move was struck down by Senegal’s Constitutional Court as illegal.

“On April 2, 2024, my mission ends at the head of Senegal,” the president said during a televised interview late on Thursday, seemingly ending suspicions that he might remain in office longer than expected.

“As far as the date is concerned, we’ll see what the dialogue comes up with,” he added. “The election can be held before or after April 2.” It remains unclear if a new president could be elected before that date.

Sall said he would hold talks next week with political leaders and afterwards a timeline for elections and what will happen after his mandate ends will become clearer.

“It is clear that the country can’t remain without a president. The dialogue will determine what happens next, and I hope that after this dialogue, there will be a consensus,” he said.

However, on Friday, most candidates who were approved to run in the delayed presidential poll and a large civil society collective said they would refuse to take part in the dialogue.

“We oppose all proposals for dialogue and demand that a date be set before April 2,” one of the candidates, Boubacar Camara, said at a press conference.

“We are calling for mobilisation,” said another presidential candidate, Aliou Mamadou Dia.

He added that the group – made up of 16 of the 19 candidates approved in January by the Constitutional Council – was working on an action plan to take place on Monday and Tuesday.

‘Distrust’

Separately, the Aar Sunu Election (Protect Our Election) collective, which includes about 40 Senegalese civil society groups, issued a statement calling the dialogue “unacceptable” and an “attempt at diversion” and demanding that the vote be held before April 2.

The Constitutional Court ordered Senegal’s government to set a new election date as soon as possible, and Sall has promised to comply, but a date has not been set yet.

Opposition candidates are asking for the president to set a date, Al Jazeera’s Nicolas Haque said, reporting from Dakar on Friday.

“But there is a level of distrust in President Macky Sall after he delayed those elections just hours before the campaigning started.”

“One of the candidates says that consensus is just not possible and that the president is trying to win time, that he’s political manoeuvring [by delaying]. Another candidate is accusing the president, saying that he doesn’t want to let go of his seat,” our correspondent said.

“There is uncertainty without that [election] date, and that’s what is really creating the crisis,” Haque added.

Senegal has been seen as one of West Africa’s most stable democracies, but disputes over the election have plunged the country into a political crisis that has sparked deadly protests. At least three people have been killed by security forces and dozens injured.

Opposition groups are keeping pressure on Sall to hold elections quickly, planning protests throughout the weekend. Sall has been accused of trying to hold onto power, something the president has denied.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

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