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West Africa and Sahel

Postponement of Senegal’s elections worries ECOWAS

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Sunday, urged the relevant authorities in Senegal to expedite the various processes to set a new date for the country’s presidential elections that was postponed.

The bloc made the appeal in a statement signed by the ECOWAS Commission in Abuja.

ECOWAS took note of the decision that the Senegalese authorities have taken to postpone the presidential election which was scheduled to take place on Feb. 25, 2024.

“The ECOWAS Commission expresses concern over the circumstances that

have led to the postponement of the elections.

“Also, the bloc appeals to the competent authorities to expedite the various processes in order to set a new date for the elections.

“The Commission further urges the entire political class to prioritise dialogue and collaboration for transparent, inclusive and credible elections.

“The ECOWAS Commission salutes President Macky Sall for upholding his

earlier decision not to run for another term.

“It encourages him to continue to defend and protect Senegal’s long-standing democratic tradition.’’

The statement added that the Commission would remain seized of the situation.,” it stated.

President Sall had postponed this month’s elections following complaints after dozens of candidates were barred from standing.

The two-term president, who reiterated that he would not be seeking re-election, did not set a new date.

Amid controversy, a constitutional council had prevented several hopefuls – including some high-profile politicians – from running.

Mr Sall said “these troubled conditions could gravely hurt” the ballot.

He added that he would start “an open national dialogue… to create the conditions for a free, transparent and inclusive election in a peaceful and reconciled Senegal”.

The presidential decree postponing the vote, which would have decided his successor, came just hours before official campaigning was due to start.

In an address to the nation, Sall said he had made the decision because of a dispute between the National Assembly and the Constitutional Court over the rejection of candidates.

Lawmakers are investigating two Constitutional Council judges whose integrity in the election process has been questioned.

“I will begin an open national dialogue to bring together the conditions for a free, transparent and inclusive election,” Sall added, without giving a new date.

Under the country’s election code, at least 80 days must pass between the publication of the decree and the election, so the earliest it could now be held is late April.

Just hours after Sall’s announcement, Abdou Latif Coulibaly, the Secretary General of the government who has acted as its spokesman, announced his resignation.

He was quitting because he wanted to have “full and complete freedom” to defend his political convictions, Coulibaly said in a statement.

This is the first time a Senegalese presidential election has been postponed and adds to the growing political tension in the country.

A November 2023 decree signed by Sall had set the election for February 25, with 20 candidates in the running but two major opposition figures excluded.

Sall reiterated Saturday that he would not be a candidate.

But one opposition leader, Thierno Alassane Sall, denounced what he called “high treason towards the Republic” in a post on X, formerly Twitter. He called on “patriots and republicans” to oppose it.

El Malick Ndiaye, former spokesman of the now-disbanded opposition party once led by the now jailed Ousmane Sonko, also denounced the decision.

“This is not a delay of the election, but a cancellation pure and simple,” he wrote on Facebook.

And another opposition figure, former mayor of Dakar Khalifa Sall, called for pro-democratic forces to unite against the decision.

“All of Senegal must stand up,” he told journalists.

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