Senegal Considers Delaying Election Amidst “Irregularities” in Election Process

Senegal Considers Delaying Election Amidst “Irregularities” in Election Process


“Ruined by Irregularities”

Speculation is growing around whether or not Senegal’s February 25th election is going to be delayed.

On Wednesday, January 31st, Senegal’s parliament approved an inquiry into the workings of the nations’ Constitutional Council after the independence of two of the Council judges were called into question. The inquiry was supported both by opposition figures in parliament, as well as by a significant portion of the ruling party, the Alliance for the Republic (APR).

The inquiry was approved following the Constitutional Council’s finalization of approved Presidential candidates for the election. Notably, the list of 20 candidates excluded Ousmane Sonko, the primary opposition figure, as well as Karim Wade, the son of former President Abdoulaye Wade.

The Constitutional Council is to determine the eligibility of those vying for the Presidency. However, with the denial of two key opposition figures, the independence of certain aspect of the council are being called into question.

Why they were Denied

The key candidates denied from the election were Ousmane Sonko, and Karim Wade.

Sonko, thought to be the largest threat to the ruling party, was denied following the upholding of Sonko’s conviction for defamation by the nations’ supreme court on January 4th. The conviction took place initially in March of 2023, where Sonko was handed a two month suspended sentence for the ‘defamation’ of Senegalese Tourism Minister Mame Mbaye Niang, who he had accused of embezzlement. In May, the sentence was extended to six months. While Sonko and his legal team sought to challenge the conviction, it was upheld on January 4th, 2024, which the Constitutional Council said made him ineligible for the Presidential race under Senegalese law.

Karim Wade, the son of former President Abdoulaye Wade, was denied candidacy due to his dual citizenship. Karim has been heavily involved in Senegalese politics over the years, holding several high level positions, in particular under his fathers Presidency. However, he was born in France, and thus holds dual citizenship between France and Senegal.

Karim Wade, the son of former Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade (Photo from AFP/Georges Gobet).

Postponement: Requests and Support

The Senagalese Democratic Party, the former ruling party under Abdoulaye and the party for which Karim is the candidate for, has requested the postponement of the election after calling into question the transparency of the electoral process. They stated the request was a part of their “desire to preserve the integrity and transparency of the process”.

Notably, the desire for postponement has also seen support from the ruling party. Community Development Minister Therese Faye stated today, February 2nd, in a TV interview that she supported “postponing the presidential election for at least six months”, citing irregularities in the electoral process that had “ruined” it.

Many expected the ruling party would not approve the inquiry into the Constitutional Council, who had barred some of their greatest opponents. However, the ruling party has shown support to the inquiry, and postponing the election. As speculation grows on if the vote will be delayed, it is paired with the thought that the ruling party may be seeking to delay the vote because they fear losing it.

If the vote is delayed, the announcement is likely to come very soon, as campaigning is officially supposed to start on February 3rd.

A Candidate Behind Bars

After Sonko was denied candidacy in the election, he named Bassirou Diomaye Diakhar Faye as his successor for the position. While Bassirou was included in the list of 20 candidates, there is one small problem. Bassirou has been in provisional detention since April of 2023, and remains so even after his candidacy was approved. Sonko called for Bassirou’s release, citing a portion of the Senegalese constitution which guarantees equal campaigning opportunities for candidates in the Presidential elections.

Bassirou Diomaye Diakhar Faye, Sonko’s successor in the Senegalese 2024 Presidential election.

However, Bassirou’s request for a provisional release in order to exercise this right has been denied, according to his aides. Senegal’s courts have not commented on the issue.

While Sonko, who maintains a high level of popularity with the nations’ disaffected youth, was thought to be the primary threat to the ruling party, it is unclear if Bassirou as his successor will see the same popularity in the upcoming election. Bassirou was a member of Sonko’s party, PASTEF, before it was dissolved by the government in July of 2023.

Sébastien Gray
Sébastien Gray
Sébastien Gray is a published journalist and historicist with over 5 years experience in writing. His primary focus is on East and West African affairs.
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