Senegal is immersed in a political crisis marked by the postponement of the elections scheduled for February 25 and the opposition’s accusations of “institutional coup d’état“. The protests They have taken to the streets in many parts of the country. Inside and outside the African continent, more and more countries and institutions continue with worry the situation that Senegal is going through, while calling for a re-establishment, as soon as possible, of a date so that the Senegalese go to the polls. This same Tuesday, a large demonstration was planned in the capital, Dakar, but the Government has prohibited it due to the “risk of seriously disrupting” traffic.
These are the keys to the political turbulence that is shaking this West African country:
The electoral postponement
On Saturday, February 3, the president Macky Sal appeared on television to announce that the elections scheduled for the end of the month were postponed sine die. A message that practically coincided with what had to be the start of the campaign. Sall reiterated that I didn’t intend to reintroduce myselfas he already announced in the past, and justified his decision to postpone the elections due to accusations of irregularities that some political groups had launched against the Constitutional Council, the body responsible for reviewing and approving all candidacies. “I will initiate an open national dialogue to create the conditions for free, transparent and inclusive elections,” Sall defended.
This announcement caused the opposition to come out to denounce what they defined as an “institutional coup d’état.” and a maneuver by the president to buy time at the head of the country. It was the trigger for a wave of protests and accusations against the country’s president, although it was not the first time that protests had pointed this out. In the past, political tension had already been established in the political class due to the possibility of Sall deciding to run for a third term, something that he ruled out at the beginning of July after months of uncertainty.
The current president’s term ends on April 2, a date on which the polls are not expected to determine who will replace him as president of the Senegalese Republic. On Monday, February 5, it took place at the Parliament a controversial session in which it was decided to delay the elections until mid-December and thus extend Sall’s mandate. A plenary session that left an unusual image: the police He entered the chamber to remove several opposition deputies who were opposed to this decision and who wanted to prevent the vote from being taken.
That same day, the country’s authorities cut off Internet and they banned the circulation of motorcycles in Dakar during the day, also They suspended the broadcast of a private televisionWalf TV, which was broadcasting the protests that were taking place while the Lower House was meeting.
The rejected candidates
The approval of the candidates for the elections by the Constitutional Council It was surrounded by controversy. Of the 93 candidates, only 20 passed the filter of this organization. One of those who was left out of the presidential race was Karim Wade, son of the former president of Abdoulaye Wade and one of the important figures on the political scene. According to the Constitutional Council, he had the double nationality and he did not renounce his French passport in time. The country’s Constitution determines that candidates can only have exclusive Senegalese nationality.
This politician, and his party, demanded an investigation from Parliament to clarify how the candidate lists had been drawn up. Wade has been one of those who has accused “corruption” to this body and asked that the elections be postponed to “correct the serious deficiencies of our electoral system,” he expressed at the time.
The disruptive opposition
Another of the great figures of Senegalese politics whose candidacy has been rejected is Ousmane Sonko, who has been imprisoned since last summer for several open judicial proceedings and accusations such as “corrupting youth” or for instigating the protests last June in Dakar. His conviction and imprisonmentduring last summer, caused a wave of strong protests. The demonstrations left about 50 people dead.
Sonko is one of the politicians who has marked a before and after in the political landscape, for his disruptive speech and anticolonialist which is far from what the population is accustomed to hearing from political elites. His party has been one of the most critical of the electoral postponement and defends that the alternative candidate they had named for the elections, Doumaye Fayehad a chance of winning.
Anger in the streets and police repression
Raising and waving the Senegalese tricolor flag and shouting “Macky Sall dictator”, thousands of people have taken to the streets since the president announced that the elections were being postponed. The unrest has been increasing, while the significant police deployment has increased the repression of the protests with tear gas.
During last weekend, three young people died in demonstrations. one in Saint Louis, a 22-year-old student. another in Dakar23 years old, and a third of 19 in Ziguinchor, a town in the south of the country. Regarding the death of the latter, the head of a hospital in the city told AFP that ““he received a projectile in the head and died from his injuries in intensive care.”
Inside and outside the continent, voices have been raised to demand that the political impasse be resolved. Organizations like the African Union They have shown their concern and demand that a new date for the elections be set as soon as possible. He Council of the European Unionin a statement, expressed a few days ago that “there is a risk that this decision tarnish Senegal’s long democratic tradition and thus opens a period of great uncertainty for the country.” This country is key in the migratory route to the Canary Islands. The previous political crises in Senegal have been accompanied by an increase in departures, especially of young people who, Frustrated by the lack of expectations that their country offers them, they risk their lives to reach Europe.