Senegal police crack down on protesters after parliament delays election. Opposition supporters clashed with police and faced tear gas on Sunday during protests in Senegal's capital, Dakar.
The demonstrations erupted in response to President Macky Sall's decision to postpone the country's Feb. 25 elections. As lawmakers prepared to discuss a bill formalizing the delay, opposition leaders, including presidential candidates, rejected the announcement and urged citizens to defend democracy.
Among those arrested were former Prime Minister Aminata Touré and Anta Babacar Ngom, a presidential candidate. The government silenced the private Walf television channel, which was broadcasting the protests live. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemned this action, calling on Senegalese authorities to ensure press freedom.
The crisis unfolding in Senegal is seen as a significant test for one of Africa's traditionally stable democracies, especially as the region grapples with a recent increase in coups. Political tensions have escalated due to clashes involving opposition supporters and the disqualification of two opposition leaders ahead of the now-postponed presidential election.
Opposition figures have criticized President Sall's decision to delay the election, citing a dispute between the judiciary and parliament regarding the final list of candidates and disqualifications. Despite this setback, at least two of the 20 candidates have stated their intention to proceed with their campaigns, which were scheduled to commence on Sunday.
President Sall's term is set to conclude on April 2nd, and according to Senegal's electoral code, elections require an 80-day notice period. This means that the earliest a new vote could occur is the last week of April.
"I am launching my electoral campaign tomorrow, in Dakar, with the candidates who have chosen to defend the Constitution," former minister and opposition candidate Thierno Alassane Sall said Saturday in a post on social media platform X.
The former mayor of Dakar, Khalifa Sall, has urged citizens to unite in defense of democracy, while another opposition candidate, Déthié Fall, declared their intention to commence their campaign and called on all candidates to do the same.
The U.S. Department of State acknowledged Senegal's history of democracy and peaceful power transitions, emphasizing the importance of all participants in the electoral process engaging peacefully to promptly establish a new election date and ensure conditions for a fair and timely election.
President Sall justified the election postponement by revoking a decree that initiated the electoral process, citing a dispute between the judiciary and federal lawmakers regarding candidate disqualification and allegations of dual nationality among some qualified candidates.
Opposition leaders have countered that President Sall lacks the authority to delay the vote. According to Senegal's constitution, the Constitutional Council, the highest election authority, has the power to reschedule elections in certain circumstances, including the death, permanent incapacity, or withdrawal of candidates.
Sall's decision came after a request from the opposition Senegalese Democratic Party, whose candidate, Karim Wade, was among those disqualified. Wade leveled accusations of corruption against two judges involved in the disqualification process, asserting that postponing the vote would offer an opportunity to rectify the harm experienced by those disqualified.