Deputies in Senegal’s parliament will meet Monday to consider the postponement of presidential elections announced by President Macky Sall, a move that has plunged the country into crisis.
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On Sunday, the government ordered a private television broadcaster off the air for “incitement to violence” over its coverage of the protests, another sign of the mounting political tension in the country.
Opposition leaders have used the term “constitutional coup” to describe the current situation, which they say is an assault on democracy.
‘We will vote’: Protesters in Dakar decry Senegal’s Macky Sall for postponing presidential election
On Monday, deputies will vote on a proposal to postpone the presidential poll — previously set for February 25 — for up to six months.
The text before them will need the support of three-fifths of the 165 deputies to pass.
Given the political row that Sall’s decision has caused and the street protests on Sunday, the proposal does not appear to be a done deal.
Sall said Saturday he delayed the vote because of a dispute between the National Assembly and the Constitutional Court over the rejection of candidates.
“I will begin an open national dialogue to bring together the conditions for a free, transparent and inclusive election,” Sall added, without giving a new date.
The dispute Sall blamed for the delay to the election arose out of the decision by the Constitutional Court to exclude Karim Wade, son of former president Abdoulaye Wade, from running for the presidency.
He was barred because he allegedly also holds French citizenship — a decision he denounced as “scandalous”.
Wade’s supporters in the National Assembly called for a parliamentary inquiry into the partiality of two judges on the Constitutional Court.
To the surprise of some observers, members of Sall’s party were among those who voted for its passage on January 30.
Sall had designated Prime Minister Amadou Ba from his party as his would-be successor, but with the party split over his candidacy, he faced possible defeat at the ballot box.
Wade is not the only candidate the Constitutional Court has excluded from the vote.
Also barred from running is firebrand anti-establishment figure Ousmane Sonko, who has been jailed since July 2023.
His surrogate, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, has been approved to run and emerged as a credible contender to win — a nightmare scenario for the president’s camp.
The international community has reacted with concern to Sall’s decision to put off the vote.
The United States, European Union and former colonial ruler France have all appealed for the vote to be rescheduled as soon as possible.
The chairman of the African Union commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, urged Senegal to resolve its “political dispute through consultation, understanding and dialogue”.
Faki called on the authorities to “organise the elections as quickly as possible, in transparency, in peace and national harmony” in a post Monday on X, formerly Twitter.
It is the first time since 1963 that a presidential vote has been postponed in Senegal, one of the few African countries never to have experienced a coup.
Some protesters on the streets Sunday feared the worst, however.
“Macky Sall wants to make us slaves,” 44-year-old trader Ousmane Biteye told AFP.
“He dares to come up with such fallacious reasons for postponing the election, and what’s more just a few hours before the start of the campaign.”