First Bank

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Why Senegal's presidential election was postponement

Senegal's parliament has voted to postpone a presidential election from February 25 to December 15 extending President Macky Sall's mandate.

That's triggered widespread public outcry and potentially tarnishes Senegal's image as one of West Africa's more stable democracies.

Why, therefore, did Sall announce a delay?

He said it was because of a dispute over the election's candidate list, and alleged corruption within the constitutional body that compiled it.

In a surprise speech to the nation, hours before official campaigning was due to begin, he said these, quote, "troubled conditions could seriously undermine the credibility of the ballot by sowing the seeds of pre- and post-electoral disputes".

But Senegal's recent history has already seen disputes, at times carried out violently in the streets.

They've been triggered by concerns that Sall, who has reached the constitutional limit of two terms in office, would run again.

Demonstrations have also taken place over the alleged political sidelining of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko.

Sall has said, both before and after the announcement of a postponement, that he is not running for a third term.

However, some opposition and civil society groups accuse Sall of orchestrating an "institutional coup" to extend his tenure.

A number of presidential candidates have submitted legal challenges, raising the prospect of a protracted court battle.

And there have been protests in the streets - prompting police to fire tear gas and make arrests.

However, there is some opposition support.

Indeed, it was the Senegalese Democratic Party - whose candidate was excluded from the final candidate list over dual nationality issues - that proposed the postponement bill in parliament before Sall's address.

But the president's announcement still took people by surprise.

That includes Senegalese citizens like Pape Sene.

"If Macky Sall had said from the beginning that it might be possible to consider postponing the elections, people could have anticipated it. But to decide like this overnight, it can only lead to confusion."

But it's also potentially caught the international community off-guard.

Senegal has never delayed a presidential vote and held four largely peaceful transfers of power since independence from France in 1960.

The abrupt postponement has dismayed those who believed the West African country would stick to a standard electoral course.

That's in a region that's become a proxy battleground between Western powers and Russia following several military coups in recent years.

The African Union, the United States and regional bloc ECOWAS have all raised concerns.

An analysis by Barclays warned that a postponement could "open the door for subsequent postponements and allow the president to do many things."


No comments:

Post a Comment