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8 Mar, 2024 08:43

African nation resets election date after unrest

Voting in Senegal, which had been delayed until December, will now be held before President Macky Sall’s final mandate expires next month
African nation resets election date after unrest

Senegal’s government has backed down from its move to delay the presidential election until December, announcing that it will be held on March 24 after the February decision to postpone triggered deadly clashes in the West African country.

The decision on Wednesday comes in response to a Senegalese Constitutional Council mandate that the vote must be held as soon as possible, government spokesman Abdou Karim Fofana said in a statement.

According to the same statement, President Macky Sall has formed a “new government”, with Interior Minister Sidiki Kaba succeeding Prime Minister Amadou Ba. The move will allow Ba, the ruling coalition’s presidential candidate, to focus on his electoral campaign.

In a mid-February ruling, the former French colony’s top election authority overturned a new law, thus postponing voting from February 25 to December. Sall has said the delay was a necessary measure to resolve a dispute between the judiciary and lawmakers with regards to the exclusion of key opposition figures from the final electoral list.

The move, however, sparked outrage, with clashes between police and protesters in one of Africa’s oldest democracies raising fears in the coup-prone West African region.

Critics, including more than a dozen of the 19 opposition candidates, condemned the delay as an “institutional coup” and a ploy to extend Sall’s rule, which is set to end on April 2. They have insisted that election day should precede the end of the president’s term in office. Sall has denied the allegations.

A commission that had been tasked with introducing an earlier schedule after a national dialogue last week proposed June 2, but the court has reportedly rejected that as well.

While addressing the national dialogue on February 26, Sall vowed to leave office at the end of his term next month. He also announced plans to put forward a bill for a general amnesty for Senegalese arrested in violent protests between 2021 and 2024, saying it “will make it possible to pacify the political arena.”