Senegal election delay ruled unlawful

Source: BBC 

The decision to postpone this month’s elections in Senegal is against the constitution, the country’s top court has ruled.

The Constitutional Council annulled both President Macky Sall’s decree and a contentious bill passed by parliament moving the vote to December. 

Widespread protests have gripped the West African country, once considered a bastion of democracy in the region.

Opposition figures said it amounted to an “constitutional coup”. 

Mr Sall had announced he was pushing the election back because of concerns over the eligibility of opposition candidates.

His proposal was backed by 105 out of the 165 MPs after a fiery debate which saw police remove some opposition MPs from the chamber. A six-month postponement was originally proposed, but a last-minute amendment extended it to 10 months, meaning a new election date of 15 December.

Mr Sall had reiterated that he was not planning to run for office again. But his critics accused him of either trying to cling on to power or unfairly influencing whoever succeeds him.

Opposition candidates and lawmakers, who had filed a number of legal challenges to the bill, will feel vindicated by the court’s decision on Thursday evening. 

Khalifa Sall, a leading opponent and a former mayor of the capital Dakar, who is not related to the president, had called the delay a “constitutional coup”, while Thierno Alassane Sall, another candidate, also no relation, called it “high treason”.

The court said it was “impossible” for the election to be held on the original date of 25 February – just 10 days away – but urged authorities to organise it “as soon as possible”. 

Mr Sall is yet to react to the ruling. His second term of office expires on 2 April.

While the election could be held before April, the disputes that led to the polls being postponed in the first place remain unresolved, including allegations of corruption in the Constitutional Council and objections from opposition candidates who had been excluded from the candidate list published last month.

Holding the elections using the disputed candidate list could spark renewed unrest and violence by supporters of those barred from contesting, in particular Ousmane Sonko, who is hugely popular among young Senegalese.

Most candidates have not been campaigning since President Sall issued his 3 February decree, hours before campaigns were meant to kick off. 

The decision comes on the same day as several opposition politicians and civil society members were released from prison, in what some in the country viewed as a move to appease public opinion. 

Senegal had long been seen as one of the most stable democracies in the region. It is the only country in mainland West Africa that has never had a military coup. It has had three largely peaceful handovers of power and until earlier this month had never delayed a presidential election.


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