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16 Feb, 2024 12:59

Senegal presidential election delay unlawful – Constitutional Council

The authority that rules on voting appeals has deemed the West African nation’s decision “unconstitutional”
Senegal presidential election delay unlawful – Constitutional Council

Senegal’s Constitutional Council has canceled a law that pushed back the West African nation’s presidential elections and triggered deadly clashes between protesters and police. The top electoral authority declared on Thursday that the order by President Macky Sall, backed by lawmakers, was illegal.

The unexpected ten-month postponement of Senegal’s vote, originally scheduled for February 25, was rejected by opposition candidates, who filed legal challenges last week. President Sall is not running for a third term, but he has claimed that delaying the vote had been necessary to avoid conflicts over the exclusion of some key contenders from the electoral register.

However, in its verdict, the Constitutional Council annulled Sall’s decree, declaring that the law passed by the Senegalese National Assembly to move the vote to December 15 was “contrary to the constitution.”

“The Constitutional Council, noting the impossibility of organizing the presidential election on the date initially planned, invites the competent authorities to hold it as soon as possible,” it concluded in the ruling quoted by the Associated Press.

The government’s announcement on February 3 to reschedule the elections has heightened tensions in the former French colony, with at least three people killed in violent protests last week. At least 266 people, including journalists, have been arrested across the country, the UN human rights office said on Tuesday, condemning the “unnecessary and disproportionate use of force against protesters and restrictions on civic space.”

Last week, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which has struggled to restore democratic rule in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger, asked the Senegalese authorities to reinstate the electoral calendar and hold elections as originally planned.

Anta Babacar Ngom, one of the candidates in the postponed election, told Reuters that the council’s decision was “good news,” and that it was now up to President Sall, whose term ends on April 2, to set an appropriate date for the voting.

However, Senegalese ruling party lawmaker Abdou Mbow warned that the ruling would “exacerbate” a standoff between the legislature and the judiciary over the voter register.