Senegal to Hold Elections “As Soon as Possible”

A Sharp Change

After two weeks of protest, and a court order striking down the Senegalese government’s delay of their Presidential election, Senegalese President Macky Sall has stated the government will seek to hold the election “as soon as possible”.

On February 5th the Senegalese government voted to delay the planned February 25th Presidential election for 10 months, until December 15th. On February 15th, Senegal’s Constitutional Court ruled that the vote by the government to delay the election was “unconstitutional”, and that while returning to the February 25th timeline would be “impossible”, the government should seek to hold the vote soon.

President Sall has conceded to the court, and while he has vowed to hold the election “as soon as possible”, he has yet to provide any timeline for when the election may take place. President Macky Sall’s term is due to end on April 2nd, and the Constitutional Court has ruled that President Sall will not be able to remain in office after his term end.

Unanswered Questions

At the core of the governments stated reason for the election delay was the barring of two key opposition figures from running in the election. Ousmane Sonko, and Karim Wade were both denied the ability to run in the election by Senegal’s Constitutional Court. A total of 20 candidates were approved to run for the election.

Primary opposition leader, Ousmane Sonko, pictured in 2022 (Photo from Seyllou, AFP/File).

After the two candidates were barred from the election, the government launched a parliamentary inquiry into the independence of two of the judges of the court. They voted to delay the election pending this inquiry, in the interest of holding “an open national dialogue to bring together the conditions for a free, transparent, and inclusive election”, to potentially see the two candidates, more so Karim Wade, included in the candidates list.

While the election is no longer delayed for ten months, the core issue of the disputed candidates list remains. Missing from any of the government and court announcements on the election timeline changes was whether or not they will be still using the list which barred the two candidates, or creating a new list.

Though they stated their intention with delaying the vote was to try and hold an “inclusive election”, many opposition powers accused President Macky Sall and the ruling party of attempting to hold on to power as long as possible, and delay an election they fear losing. President Sall is not running for a third term, and Prime Minister Amadou Ba is succeeding him as the candidate for the Alliance for the Republic party.

Who was Denied..?

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).

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 has experienced a similar level of popularity to Sonko, and is a key contender to the election.

Two Weeks of Protests

After the government announced they were considering the delay on February 3rd, protests erupted nationwide. Since their outbreak, internet was restricted first in Dakar, and then in the rest of Senegal on two occasions.

Protestors pictured in the Senegalese capital of Dakar on February 9th, 2024 (Photo from Guy Peterson/AFP).

The police response was notedly heavy handed, with clashes occurring regularly and police deploying tear gas on multiple occasions in order to disperse protestors. Since protests began, three protestors were killed by police in separate incidents around the country.

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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