Senegal’s leader postpones Feb. 25 presidential vote, citing controversies over candidate lists

Sall says he signed a decree repealing the law that convened the electoral body just as campaigning was set to begin in one of West Africa’s most stable democracies

Senegal's President Macky Sall
Senegal's President Macky Sall speaks during a plenary session at the COP28 U.N. Climate Summit, Friday, Dec. 1, 2023, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.Rafiq Maqbool (AP)

Senegalese President Macky Sall on Saturday postponed presidential elections scheduled for Feb. 25, citing controversies over the disqualification of some candidates and allegations of corruption in election-related cases.

Sall — who is not seeking another term in office — said he signed a decree repealing the law that convened the electoral body just as campaigning was set to begin in one of Africa’s most stable democracies at a time the region is grappling with a wave of coups.

The controversies over the candidates “could seriously harm the credibility of the election by creating the seeds of pre- and post-electoral litigation,” Sall said without announcing a new date for the vote.

He also said some of the 20 candidates cleared to run were discovered to have dual nationality, which would disqualify them under the Senegalese constitution.

The announcement came as federal lawmakers were set to deliberate on a bill on the postponement as requested by the opposition Senegalese Democratic Party, whose candidate was disqualified from the election.

Critics of the postponement included former Prime Minister Aminata Touré, who called it “sabotage.”

“For a long time, they have sabotaged the process. This is the first time that a presidential election has been postponed in Senegal,” Touré said.

The crucial vote has been dogged by controversies, from deadly clashes that resulted in Sall announcing that he would not seek a third term to the disqualification of two opposition leaders by the highest election authority.

Among those disqualified was Ousmane Sonko, who finished third in the 2019 presidential election and is seen as a favorite among young people. He has alleged a clampdown on the opposition, which Sall’s government denies.

After the Constitutional Council published a final list of candidates two weeks ago, federal lawmakers set up a panel to investigate two judges on the council who were accused of corruption. The allegation was rejected by the association of Senegal’s judges, who called for respect for the separation of powers.

Sall described the aftermath of the accusations as a “sufficiently serious and confusing situation,” adding: “Our country cannot afford a new crisis.”

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