The political crisis unprecedented in decades in Senegal continues, while a new date for the presidential election remains to be determined. Opponents of President Macky Sall accused him on Tuesday February 20 of dragging his feet to postpone the vote, initially scheduled for February 25.

"An inexplicable slowness has been noted. Nothing has been undertaken" despite the developments of the past week, said the 15 candidates in a joint press release published Tuesday evening.

Among the 15 signatories are the former mayor of Dakar Khalifa Sall and, via his representative, Bassirou Diomaye Diakhar Faye, presented as the replacement candidate for the anti-system opponent Ousmane Sonko. MM. Faye and Sonko are currently imprisoned.

The citizen collective “Aar Sunu Election” (“Let’s protect our election”) announced a new rally on Saturday. The collective is calling for the vote to be held before April 2, the official end date of President Sall's mandate. According to his projections, the election must take place on March 3 at the latest.

Senegal is going through a political crisis not seen in decades after the decision in early February by President Sall and the National Assembly to postpone the presidential election. This postponement, denounced as a “constitutional coup” by the opposition, provoked demonstrations which left three people dead.

Last week, the Constitutional Council vetoed this postponement and the retention of President Sall in his post until the installation of his successor.

The Council noted the impossibility of maintaining the presidential election on February 25 and asked the authorities to organize it “as soon as possible”. President Sall said on Friday his intention to respect the Council's decision and to carry out "without delay the necessary consultations" for the organization of the vote.

The Senegalese are now waiting to know the new date. Nothing has leaked publicly about the discussions that President Sall would lead.

The 15 candidates say the electoral process should have resumed. They accuse President Sall of refusing to assume his mission of organizing the election.

“Everything suggests that Macky Sall cannot digest the defeat by the Constitutional Council and the people of his attempt to sabotage the presidential election,” they say.

Actions announced

They announced without further details "a series of actions aimed at guaranteeing the holding of the vote within the allotted time frame".

The 15 signatories are among the 19 appearing on an updated list published Tuesday by the Constitutional Council of candidates approved for the presidential election.

Demonstrators ask the Senegalese authorities to respect the date of the presidential election, February 16, 2024 in Dakar © JOHN WESSELS / AFP

The “Aar Sunu Election” collective, for its part, announced Tuesday to the press a rally in Dakar on Saturday, the day before the election should have taken place.

He asked the participants to come symbolically with their voter card, but also food or drinks for what is intended to be President Sall's "going away party". He also calls on the Senegalese to symbolically go to the polling stations on Sunday.

Aar Sunu Election mobilized several thousand people on Saturday in the streets of Dakar. Each event is, however, subject to an authorization regime.

The academic world also went on strike last week to protest the death of a student in Saint-Louis during demonstrations.

On Wednesday, a few dozen students gathered at Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar to demand the reopening of the campus, closed since the unrest of June 2023, in the presence of a strong police force. “We want the university to open next week at the latest,” Modou Diagne, a student representative, told AFP.

The president and the National Assembly caused a shock wave with the now aborted project to postpone the election.

The opposition suspects the presidential camp of having wanted to arrange with the calendar for fear of the defeat of its candidate, Prime Minister Amadou Ba, designated by President Sall to succeed him.

Civil society and political groups demonstrate to call on authorities to respect the election date, February 17, 2024 in Dakar, Senegal © JOHN WESSELS / AFP

She suspected a maneuver to keep Mr. Sall in power. He has said several times that he will not run for a third term.

Senegal's international partners have expressed concern about the situation. President Sall's commitment to "fully" implementing the decision of the Constitutional Council, as well as various gestures such as the provisional release of hundreds of detainees, have created a fragile sense of appeasement.

But the country remains in the grip of a heated dispute over the holding of the presidential election before or after April 2, and over whether or not to restart the candidacy approval process from scratch.


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