President Macky Sall’s Attempt to Postpone Senegalese Election was Rejected by Court

The top court in Senegal has ruled that the decision to postpone this month’s presidential election was in violation of the constitution.

The Constitutional Council has invalidated both President Macky Sall’s decree and a controversial bill passed by parliament, resulting in the rescheduling of the vote to December.

Widespread protests have engulfed the West African country, which was previously seen as a pillar of stability in the region.

A prominent opposition figure celebrated the ruling as “a significant victory for democracy”.

“We have been deeply troubled by the recent disregard for the law and the constitution,” expressed Aminata Touré, a former prime minister and current opposition figure, during an interview on the BBC’s Newsday programme.

Anta Babacar, the sole female candidate, agreed.

“We are incredibly proud of our Constitutional Council, which demonstrates the presence of some remaining elements of democracy and justice in our nation,” she expressed with great satisfaction.

In an interview with the BBC, she emphasised the need to establish a new election date as a top priority.

On 3 February, Mr Sall made an announcement regarding the election date, which was initially set for 25 February. The decision to postpone the date was made due to concerns surrounding the eligibility of opposition candidates.

The proposal received the support of 105 out of the 165 MPs following a heated debate that resulted in the removal of certain opposition MPs from the chamber by the police. The initial suggestion was to delay the election for six months, but a sudden change extended it to 10 months, resulting in a new election date of 15 December.

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Mr. Sall made it clear that he had no intentions of seeking re-election. However, his detractors claimed that he was either attempting to retain his position or exerting undue influence over his potential successor.

Mr Sall was strongly encouraged by both the US and EU to reconsider his decision.

Opposition candidates and lawmakers have submitted several legal challenges.

Khalifa Sall, a prominent opponent and former mayor of the capital Dakar, expressed his concerns about the delay, referring to it as a “constitutional coup”. Meanwhile, Thierno Alassane Sall, another candidate, also voiced his strong disapproval, describing it as an act of “high treason”.

The Constitutional Council stated that holding the election on the original date was deemed “impossible,” but they emphasised the importance of organising it “as soon as possible.”

Mr Sall has not yet responded to the ruling, but a government spokesperson mentioned that it has been acknowledged.

The president’s second term concludes on 2 April.

Although the election may take place earlier, the issues that caused the postponement of the polls are still unresolved. These include allegations of corruption within the Constitutional Council and objections from opposition figures who were excluded from the candidate list published last month.

The utilisation of the contested candidate list for the election has the potential to ignite further unrest and violence among the supporters of those who have been disqualified from participating. One individual in particular, Ousmane Sonko, possesses a significant and outspoken following among the youth in Senegal.

Since President Sall issued his decree earlier this month, hours before campaigns were meant to kick off, most candidates have refrained from campaigning.

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The court ruling coincided with the release of several opposition politicians and civil society members from prison, which was seen by some as an attempt to address public sentiment.

Senegal has been widely regarded as one of the most politically stable nations in the region. This country in mainland West Africa has managed to avoid any military coups throughout its history. It has experienced three smooth transitions of power and, up until recently, had never postponed a presidential election.

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