In Senegal, the president calls for dialogue, opposition to holding the election

“I don’t know any candidate who refuses dialogue,” President Macky Sall confidently assured several Senegalese media on Thursday February 22

In Senegal, the president calls for dialogue, opposition to holding the election

“I don’t know any candidate who refuses dialogue,” President Macky Sall confidently assured several Senegalese media on Thursday February 22. On Sunday, only three of the nineteen candidates selected for the presidential election had confirmed their presence at the “national consultations” convened the following afternoon by the Head of State at the Diamnadio International Conference Center. Their primary objective: to set a new date for the vote which was to be held on Sunday before being postponed to February 3 by Macky Sall.

The Senegalese president having chosen not to choose while the Constitutional Council invited “the competent authorities” to organize the election “as soon as possible”. So for now, they are Amadou Ba, the prime minister and candidate of the presidential majority, Idrissa Seck, the former president of the economic, social and environmental council and Boun Abdallah Dionne, a former prime minister of Macky Sall who served in the opposition, who will be responsible for helping it decide. “The setting of an election date is of a regulatory nature and only the president can set it by decree […] The participants in the dialogue could help him to this end”, indicates the latter's coalition to justify his presence .

To convince the sixteen other recalcitrant candidates for dialogue, an invitation was extended to them for Monday at 11 a.m. by the Ministry of the Interior. In vain so far. “After having firmly declined the invitation from Macky Sall, we decided, on the one hand, to refer the matter to the Constitutional Council and, on the other hand, to go to meet the people to organize real dialogue with them,” they said. rather declared these candidates in a joint press release on Saturday.

“By Tuesday, we will have a precise idea”

They say they refuse to “endorse a constitutional coup” but also denounce Macky Sall’s desire to extend these exchanges to candidates rejected by the Constitutional Council. This prospect could offer a second chance to all those who say they are “robbed” of their right to run for president. In the first place, Karim Wade after the head of state justified the postponement of the election to avoid an "institutional crisis", following accusations of corruption launched by the camp of the son of the former president Abdoulaye Wade (2000 -2012) against two judges of the Constitutional Council. In exile since 2016 in Qatar, Karim Wade saw his candidacy invalidated at the last minute due to dual nationality. “We must review everything to the extent that the process is biased,” recommends today Nafi Diallo, the secretary general for communications of the Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS).

To support its cause, Mr. Wade's party allied itself with around fifteen of the seventy-three candidates rejected by the Constitutional Council. Grouped together within a Democratic Front for an Inclusive Election (Fdpei), they judged, on February 20, “non-negotiable” the resumption of the process. “We could have set the date but we cannot do it until we have the arguments of each side. By Tuesday, we will have a precise idea,” Macky Sall responded to them, in a way, two days later, while reiterating his commitment to hand over power on April 2, when his mandate expires.

Beyond the battle of press releases, supporters and opponents of dialogue have mobilized their support. A rally for a symbolic vote was prevented by the police on Sunday. The day before, a march in support of a few hundred supporters of Macky Sall and two sit-ins by civil society organizations opposed to the consultations took place smoothly.

Pastef leaders still in detention

The expected event that the president and his Minister of Justice Aissata Tall Sall had foreshadowed, however, did not occur. The two leaders of the African Patriots of Senegal for work, ethics and fraternity (Pastef), the main opposition force, Ousmane Sonko in detention since July for “calling for insurrection” and Bassirou Diomaye Faye, nominated candidate of the party dissolved and imprisoned since April for "contempt of court", remained in detention at Cap Manuel prison on the eve of the opening of the dialogue.

Their release was, however, expected by part of public opinion after the release of more than 350 detainees to "pacify the public space" and the announcement by the Senegalese president of the possibility of an amnesty law on the events that have taken place since the start of the political crisis in Senegal in 2021.

“It is up to his lawyers to submit a request for provisional release,” Macky Sall warned on Thursday about the release of candidate Bassirou Diomaye Faye to allow his participation in the dialogue. “I have not received any mandate from Bassirou Diomaye Faye to submit any request for provisional release,” his counsel, Moussa Sarr, responded dryly on Saturday when questioned by private radio RFM, while considering that “to release a political detainee, we do not need the intervention of a lawyer. »