Senegal: the Constitutional Council plunges the country into the unknown by canceling the postponement of the presidential election

The decision is a scathing disavowal for the Senegalese power

Senegal: the Constitutional Council plunges the country into the unknown by canceling the postponement of the presidential election

The decision is a scathing disavowal for the Senegalese power. On Thursday February 15, the Constitutional Council invalidated the postponement of the presidential election to December 15, plunging the country further into uncertainty. Seized by several members of the opposition and around ten candidates for the supreme office, the body declared “contrary to the Constitution” the law postponing by ten months the vote which was to be held on February 25 and the maintenance of President Macky Sall in his post beyond the end of his mandate.

Although it also repeals the presidential decree which, de facto, modified the electoral calendar, the body does not set a new date for the vote. Given the delay in the process, it limits itself to noting “the impossibility of organizing the presidential election on the date initially planned” of February 25 and “invites the competent authorities to hold it as soon as possible”.

Announced by President Macky Sall on February 3 and ratified two days later by the deputies during a turbulent session during which the elected representatives of the opposition were expelled from the National Assembly, the decision to postpone the election created a political earthquake in a country where presidential deadlines had always been respected since independence.

Seized by opponents who considered this shift in the calendar unconstitutional, the Constitutional Council was particularly expected even if the Senegalese head of state did not commit to following its opinion. “When the decision is made, I can say what I will do,” he told the Associated Press on February 9. Several leaders of the presidential movement believe that the members of the Council do not have the authority to control a constitutional law. An interpretation that the seven wise men challenged, considering themselves “competent” to rule on the legality of the texts.

Judges suspected of corruption

The jurisdiction nevertheless finds itself in an uncomfortable position, to say the least. Maintaining impartiality, she is accused of having influenced the electoral process. Two of the seven judges who make up the Council were accused of corruption by the Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS), for having eliminated its candidate, Karim Wade, the son of former president Abdoulaye Wade (2000-2012), from the race for the presidential election. The latter had been disqualified for not having renounced his French nationality in time, the Constitution requiring that any candidate for the supreme office be exclusively Senegalese.

The PDS then obtained the formation of a commission of inquiry in the National Assembly, accusing Amadou Ba, the prime minister, the movement's presidential candidate, of having "used his power to manipulate the election and eliminate candidates”.

“Proof that we are in a state of law”

“The Constitutional Council had no other choice to clear its honor,” reacted Thierno Alassane Sall, an opposition deputy. Karim Wade was removed from the game for perjury [on his French nationality] and it is his party which accuses the judges of corruption? It was a grotesque situation. »

The PDS, for its part, did not want to answer Le Monde’s questions. “At least we have proof that we are in a state of law. No one will dare to question the independence of the judiciary any more,” says a presidential source.

The decision of the Constitutional Council calls into question the negotiations initiated in recent days thanks to the intermediary of several mediators, responsible for bringing together Macky Sall and the ex-Pastef (African Patriots of Senegal for work, ethics and fraternity) , Ousmane Sonko's party, which was dissolved in July.

Mediations for a way out of the crisis

Three major points are at the heart of the discussions: the participation of opposition executives in the national dialogue desired by the Head of State, the date of the presidential election, and that of the withdrawal of Macky Sall, whose mandate must be 'end on April 2, of the presidency.

A few hours before the publication of the Constitutional Council's decision, several so-called political detainees began to be released slowly. Among them, opposition figures like Aliou Sané, of the Y’en a marre movement and coordinator of the F24 civil society platform. “All my clients have benefited from provisional release on the initiative of the public prosecutor,” assures Me Moussa Sarr. The lawyer adds that the legal proceedings will still take their course. “The release of detainees is a unilateral decision which is not the result of negotiations,” asserts, categorically, Amadou Ba, of the ex-Pastef. For now, neither of the country's two most famous political detainees, Ousmane Sonko and his right-hand man, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, had been released. In recent days, the possibility of an amnesty concerning them was on the table.

“All for that! », deplores a Western diplomat, who explains that Westerners were united in trying to convince Macky Sall to leave power before April 2. “We had leverage. Macky Sall is keen to leave with the reputation of a great man. He aims to occupy Africa's seat at the G20 and even one day be secretary general of the UN. If he stays in power, all this will be unthinkable,” he explains.

Senegalese power “nails by sight”

The international community has expressed its concern about the deterioration of the situation in Senegal. The postponement of the presidential election “cannot be considered legitimate”, reacted the American Department of State in a press release on February 8. Assuring that the decision to postpone the vote “was not premeditated”, a diplomatic source regrets that the Senegalese government is “navigating by sight”.

From now on, will the election be able to be held on February 25? The decision of the constitutional judges, if it goes in the direction of the opposition which fought against the postponement of the election, is not accompanied by a timetable. According to international observers, this could be possible from a technical point of view, since much of the electoral equipment has been deployed. But politically, it looks much more complicated, especially since the candidates were unable to campaign.

“Unfortunately, the Council did not set the date for the new election, leaving the prerogative to the authorities. But this does not mean a blank check for Macky Sall: the ballot must be organized as soon as possible. In no case can he go beyond April 2, which marks the end of his mandate,” warns Amadou Ba, ex-Pastef executive.

On the government side, Minister Seydou Gueye, also spokesperson for the presidential party, warns that "there is a strong chance of not being able to hold the elections before April 2." “The Constitutional Council does not issue an injunction. It is up to the executive power to find a consensual date,” he believes. As the country sinks into uncertainty, eyes are once again on President Macky Sall.