In Senegal, the opposition mobilizes against the indefinite postponement of the presidential election

Senegalese gendarmes used tear gas on Sunday, February 4, in Dakar, to disperse hundreds of people who had come to demonstrate against the postponement of the presidential election, before being stoned, the Agency's journalists noted

In Senegal, the opposition mobilizes against the indefinite postponement of the presidential election

Senegalese gendarmes used tear gas on Sunday, February 4, in Dakar, to disperse hundreds of people who had come to demonstrate against the postponement of the presidential election, before being stoned, the Agency's journalists noted. France-Presse (AFP). These clashes followed the announcement on Saturday by President Macky Sall of the postponement of the presidential election scheduled for February 25.

Following this unprecedented decision, which sparked an outcry, the opposition called for demonstrations in the Senegalese capital on Sunday and to maintain the electoral campaign as planned. Men and women of all ages, waving Senegal flags or wearing the jersey of the national football team, converged in the early afternoon towards a roundabout on one of the main roads of the capital, at the call of several candidates.

Heavy tear gas fire

The gendarmes, deployed in large numbers, unleashed heavy fire with tear gas to disperse them. Then they plunged on foot or in a pick-up truck into adjacent neighborhoods in pursuit of fleeing demonstrators. They then suffered numerous stone throws.

Young people chanting “Macky Sall dictator! » undertook to set up roadblocks with makeshift means. “We came out to say no to this crime, no to this constitutional coup,” one of the demonstrators, Demba Ba, 36, told AFP. One of the presidential candidates, Daouda Ndiaye, posted a message on social networks in which he claims to have been “brutalized” by the police, and claims that some of his collaborators were “arrested”.

The whole country called to “stand up” against the postponement of the vote

After Macky Sall's decision, the opposition immediately decided to mobilize. “We systematically reject the decree [postponing the presidential election]. We are meeting all Senegalese people this Sunday for a march in Dakar, Cheikh Tidiane Youm, a spokesperson for the opposition camp, said on private radio RFM on Saturday.

“We met and agreed to gather from 3 p.m. to start our [electoral] campaign collectively,” Habib Sy, one of the twenty candidates who were to compete in the election, also said on the same radio. postponed. “All the living forces of the nation must organize, act and obtain the restoration of the Republican calendar,” wrote the intellectual Felwine Sarr in a column.

Senegalese opponent Khalifa Sall, one of the main presidential candidates, also called on the entire country to “stand up” against the postponement of the vote. Former Prime Minister Aminata Touré, for her part, denounced on social networks an “unprecedented democratic regression” and called “democrats and citizens [to] mobilize to defend [the] democratic achievements”.

“Democratic regression”

The decision to postpone the presidential election in a context of serious political crisis by the president elected in 2012 and re-elected in 2019 also caused concern abroad. It once again plunges this country, considered an island of stability in Africa, into the unknown, but which has experienced several episodes of deadly unrest since 2021.

France spoke on Sunday about this postponement of the vote in a press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: “We call on the authorities to remove the uncertainties surrounding the electoral calendar so that the elections can be held as quickly as possible and in compliance with rules of Senegalese democracy. »

This opens a “period of uncertainty,” European Union diplomatic service spokesperson Nabila Massrali said on Sunday, calling for elections to be held “as soon as possible.” “The European Union (…) calls on all stakeholders to work, in a peaceful climate, to hold a transparent, inclusive and credible election, as soon as possible and in compliance with the rule of law, in order to preserve the long tradition of stability and democracy in Senegal,” she added in a press release.

The United States said it was “deeply concerned” by President Sall’s announcement, the State Department said on the social network X on Saturday. “We urge all participants in the Senegalese electoral process to engage peacefully in the important effort to quickly set a new date and conditions for a free and fair election,” he said.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) also expressed its “concern” and asked the authorities in a press release to work to quickly set a new date.

A first since 1963

On Saturday, a few hours before the official opening of the campaign, President Sall announced the repeal of the decree setting the presidential election for February 25.

This is the first time since 1963 that a presidential election by direct universal suffrage has been postponed in Senegal. Many reactions highlighted the practice of democracy and alternation. Senegal has never experienced a coup; a rarity on the continent, while they have followed one another in recent years in West Africa.

Macky Sall invoked the conflict which broke out between the Constitutional Council and the National Assembly, after the final validation by the court of twenty candidacies and the elimination of several dozen others.

At the initiative of Karim Wade, a failed candidate who called into question the integrity of two constitutional judges and demanded the postponement of the election, the Assembly approved the creation of a commission of inquiry into the conditions of validation of applications.

Against all expectations, the deputies from the presidential camp supported the approach. It provoked a heated argument over the separation of powers, but also fueled suspicion of a government plan to postpone the presidential election and avoid defeat. The candidate of the presidential camp, the current prime minister, Amadou Ba, is contested within his own ranks and faces dissidents.

Bassirou Diomaye Faye, a credible candidate for victory

On the contrary, the anti-system candidate Bassirou Diomaye Faye, authorized to run by the Constitutional Council although imprisoned since 2023, has established himself in recent weeks as a credible candidate for victory, a nightmare scenario for the presidential camp.

Senegal cannot “afford a new crisis” after deadly unrest in March 2021 and June 2023, said President Sall, announcing “a national dialogue” for “a free, transparent and inclusive election” and reiterating his commitment to not be a candidate.

According to the electoral code, a decree setting the date of a new presidential election must be published at the latest eighty days before the election, which would lead to the end of April in the best case scenario, an almost impossible scenario. .

President Sall therefore risks remaining in his post beyond the end of his mandate on April 2.