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West Africa and Sahel

Constitutional Council overturns law postponing presidential election in Senegal

The Constitutional Council has overturned the controversial law recently passed by the Senegalese parliament postponing the country’s presidential election scheduled for 25 February.

In a statement, the Council, whose decisions cannot be appealed against also voided a presidential decree on the postponed presidential vote.

The Council described as unconstitutional the decree and the law passed after opposition MPs were ejected from the floor of the parliamentary Chambers.

A new date for the presidential election is expected to be agreed, but there appears to be a desire to respect the constitutional provision which stipulates that sitting President Macky Sall must vacate power by the 2nd of April at the end of his two mandates.

The postponement of the vote had been greeted by street protests, resulting in at least three deaths.

There was no immediate reaction from the parliament or the presidency to the Constitutional Council’s decision, which followed government’s announcement on Thursday of the release of some political detainees including relatives of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, jailed for formating insurrection.

The appeasement move by the embattled government of President Sall, could also see the release of Sonko himself and his anointed candidate for the presidential election Bassirou Diomaye Faye, who is also detained and awaiting trial on charges of contempt of court, defamation and intention to cause public disorder.

ECOWAS, the regional bloc has launched diplomatic initiatives to douse the political tension in Senegal, which until recently was considered an anchor of stability in a politically restive region.

On Wednesday, the current Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority and Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu cancelled his planned visit to Senegal, considered part of the preventive diplomacy.

No official reason was given for the cancellation, but diplomatic sources said that Senegalese government views the political crisis as an internal matter.

The Senegalese ministerial delegation was able to prevent the ECOWAS Mediation and Security Council from discussing the country’s crisis at an extraordinary meeting held last Thursday in Abuja, the Nigerian capital.

These unprecedented developments in Senegal could not have come at a worse time for ECOWAS. Four of the bloc’s 15 member States – Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger – are under military rule, and the last three have served notice of their intention to quit the organisation, set up in May 1975, to foster regional integration.

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