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6 Feb, 2024 09:50

Lawmakers scuffle as African nation delays election

The move by Senegalese MPs extends the tenure of President Macky Sall, which was due to end on April 2
Lawmakers scuffle as African nation delays election

Senegalese lawmakers have voted to postpone the West African nation’s presidential election until mid-December, despite opposition to the decision. The election was originally scheduled for February 25.

Security forces reportedly removed several opposition MPs from the legislative chamber after they attempted to obstruct the voting process. Riot police also fired tear gas at protesters who had gathered outside parliament, with many others arrested as they stormed the streets of the capital, Dakar, burning tires while branding President Macky Sall a “dictator” for delaying the election.

The parliamentary approval on Monday followed what the Associated Press described as a “chaotic” voting process. It effectively extends  Sall’s term, which was set to expire on April 2, until his successor is elected later this year. The amended bill was approved by 105 members of the 165-seat parliament.

The Senegalese president announced on Saturday the postponement of the former French colony’s February election to an unspecified date, citing a disagreement between the judiciary and federal lawmakers over the exclusion of key opposition candidates from the final electoral list. Ousmane Sonko, the jailed leader of the Patriots of Senegal for Work, Ethics, and Fraternity Party, and Karim Wade, the son of former Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, are among those disqualified.

Sall, who declared last year that he would not run for a third term, expressed concern that electoral issues would spark conflict in the country, which has seen several deadly protests in recent months.

The decision to postpone the election, the first such delay since Senegal secured independence from France in 1963, enraged the 20 opposition candidates cleared for the presidential race. On Sunday, police in Dakar clashed with demonstrators protesting against the postponement, with several of them being arrested, including former Prime Minister Aminata Toure and Anta Babacar Ngom, one of the candidates in the postponed vote.

The African Union and the West African regional bloc, ECOWAS, have called on the parties in Senegal to resolve the country’s political crisis through dialogue to safeguard democracy in a region plagued by coups.

At least three opposition parties filed legal challenges against the delay on Monday, Reuters reported, citing Constitutional Council documents, while two more candidates have vowed to do the same.

The government of Senegal temporarily shut down internet access on Monday, citing threats to public order, following similar steps twice last year due to violent opposition protests.