The decision to postpone of the presidential elections in Senegal threatens the country’s democratic reputation, per the Africa Faith and Justice Network (AFJN).
On February 3, 2024, Senegal’s President Macky Sall announced the postponement of the nation’s presidential elections, citing “controversies over the disqualification of some candidates and allegations of corruption in election-related cases,” according to reports.
On Monday, February 5, the West African country’s parliament voted to delay the election to December 15, 2024. According to some sources, this vote happened after security officers expelled members of the opposition Parliament.
In a Wednesday, February 7 statement, AFJN Executive Director, Steven Nabieu Rogers, urged Sall to “honor the original election date of February 25, 2024.”
“With Senegal being one of the few stable democracies in West Africa, this negative development puts the country’s enviable democratic credentials on the line – in a region experiencing a surge in coups,” Rogers said in the statement shared with sources.
Rogers added, “The unilateral announcement by the President of the delay and expulsion of opposition lawmakers, provides very little room for optimism that Senegal will actually hold a free and fair election under President Sall.”
He faults the Senegalese government for arresting the opposition members, who were among protesters following President Sall’s announcement, saying they ought to “be released unconditionally and allowed to fully participate in the political process.”
“The Africa Faith and Justice Network therefore urges the government of Senegal to ensure the safety of all its citizens (including peaceful protesters) to freely exercise their democratic rights and to prevent additional election-related violence,” Rogers said.
Recently, tension has been mounting in Senegal following the Constitutional Council’s decision to exclude several candidates from the election, including opposition figures Karim Wade and Ousmane Sonko.
In July 2023, Macky Sall announced that he would not be seeking re-election in the Presidential elections, explaining that “Senegal is more than me, and is full of capable leaders for the country’s development.”
On Tuesday, February 6, members of the Senegal’s National Laity Council (CNL) disapproved the decision to postpone the polls saying they are in “total disagreement with this decision, the consequences of which could lead Senegal into an uncertain future.”
Adding that, “This unprecedented decision, which runs counter to Senegal’s legendary democratic tradition, entails real risks of instability and is a matter of grave concern for our organization.”
On February 4, Archbishop Benjamin Ndiaye of Senegal’s Dakar Archdiocese also said he was “baffled by what’s going on” in the country, and described Sall’s announcement to post the presidential polls as a “technique of circumvention”.
“When there is a rule, it’s so that it can be followed, not so that we can pass to the right or to the left,” Archbishop Ndiaye told journalists during the Sunday, February 4 press conference.