President Macky Sall of Senegal on Saturday suspended elections that were due to be held on Feb. 25, hours before political parties were set to commence official campaigns.
A meeting of opposition leaders in Senegal was scheduled for 3pm local time Sunday to decide on a joint response, according to people familiar with their plans. Yassine Fall, vice president of external relations for Pastef, one of the opposition parties, described Sall’s cancellation of the election as “a constitutional coup.” Pastef’s leader Ousmane Sonko was disqualified from running for president in the vote.
Sall did not announce a new date for the vote, saying instead that he will “open national dialogue to bring together the conditions for a free, transparent and inclusive election.” He cited “troubled conditions” that could “undermine the credibility of the ballot by sowing the seeds of pre- and post-electoral disputes.”
Those conditions are thought to be in relation to the decision by the Constitutional Council — a body that approves election candidates in Senegal — to exclude some members of the opposition from participating in the vote, including Karim Wade of the Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS). The party had requested a postponement of the vote.
Sall is term limited after serving two terms since he was elected in 2012. He had said last July that he would not seek another re-election, and then named Amadou Ba, who has been prime minister since September 2022, as the ruling party’s candidate.
Senegal has held a succession of peaceful elections over the last two decades, giving it a reputation as one of Africa’s most stable democracies. Its constitution empowers the president to put forward a decree calling for elections to be held. But debates are currently ongoing in the country over whether the president can cancel elections, Abdou Salam Thiam, a Dakar-based advocacy and campaign expert, told Semafor Africa.
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Ecowas, the regional bloc in West Africa embattled by the recent departure of three French-speaking member states, said it was concerned by the postponement and also called for a new date to be set speedily.