Senegal: “The president should consider postponing the election until March”

The Senegalese Constitutional Council invalidated, on Thursday February 15, the postponement to December 15 of the presidential election initially scheduled for February 25

Senegal: “The president should consider postponing the election until March”

The Senegalese Constitutional Council invalidated, on Thursday February 15, the postponement to December 15 of the presidential election initially scheduled for February 25. The body judges in particular “contrary to the Constitution” the maintenance of President Macky Sall in his post beyond the end of his mandate. Moussa Diaw, professor and researcher in political science at Gaston-Berger University in Saint-Louis, discusses what he considers to be a “historic decision”.

This is a political setback for him, and a disavowal. His decision to cancel the presidential election, unprecedented in the history of Senegal and taken without any consultation with the candidates, was a mistake on his part and his political allies in the Benno Bokk Yakaar coalition. It is now up to him to find a solution and his room for maneuver is very limited. The president no longer has a choice: he must comply with the decision of the Constitutional Council, which “invites the competent authorities to hold [the election] as soon as possible”. Macky Sall's mandate ends on April 2. After this date, he is no longer President of the Republic. If he does not organize the vote beforehand, it risks creating a very tense political situation.

The Constitutional Council did not want to put forward a date and, in my opinion, it was right. Today it leaves the executive with the choice of proposing one that achieves consensus. The original date of February 25 is not tenable. To get out of the crisis, I think that the President of the Republic should consider postponing the election until March, in order to be able to hand over the reins. We must move quickly towards the election to be able to calm things down. Senegal must reconnect with its democratic tradition and guarantee the rule of law.

It is obvious that these accusations have affected the image of the Council, but its decision can be considered historic. The wise have taken their responsibilities by having an eye on the conformity of the laws and the texts that are passed. This censorship allows them to restore the image of the institution and create a space where it regains a major role as a political arbiter. The accusations made against the Council could have influenced its choice, but it appears today that it is a competent safeguard to state the law, in accordance with its prerogatives.

The PDS strategy did not work, there is no doubt about it. Karim Wade was disqualified by the Constitutional Council because of false declarations concerning his dual French and Senegalese nationality. Subsequently, his party initiated a parliamentary commission of inquiry questioning the integrity of two members of the Council. By listening to the members of the PDS, we realize that this commission was only a means to postpone the election. Today, Karim Wade runs the risk of being sanctioned by Senegalese voters who saw political manipulation through him. The PDS finds itself in a political impasse.

Senegal's environment is polluted by military and constitutional coups. But today, the Senegalese Council is showing the way forward to its counterparts in the sub-region, who have failed to play their role. The Senegalese example should serve as a model capable of strengthening the rule of law and democracy throughout French-speaking Africa.