After weeks of crisis the presidential election will take place

After weeks of crisis, the presidential election will take place at the end of March

The Senegalese will vote for their president at the end of March, but the exact date is still unclear. The government announced on Wednesday that the first round would take place on March 24, while the Constitutional Council had scheduled it for March 31. For its part, after a lively debate, Parliament passed an amnesty law for acts related to political violence in recent years.

Published on: 03/06/2024 – 10:11 p.m. Modified on: 03/06/2024 – 11:05 p.m

5 minutes

The Senegalese were finally due to elect their fifth president at the end of March, following a sudden acceleration of events on Wednesday March 6 in the severe political crisis caused by the last-minute postponement of the vote.

However, there remains some uncertainty about the exact date: the presidency announced that the first round would take place on March 24th, and the Constitutional Council set it for March 31st.

The election would in any case take place before the expiry of President Macky Sall's mandate on April 2, one of the key elements of the crisis, as a broad front of opposition and civil society suspects Macky Sall of wanting to cling to power.

A second round, which is likely based on the current status of candidatures but for which no date has been announced, would take place before or after the 2nd round. However, a Constitutional Council decision published on Wednesday says that compared to the first round, if the turnaround were to take place before the end of the mandate, President Sall would remain in his post until his successor is appointed.

Another reason for tension is that the competition must compete against the 19 participants whose list the Constitutional Council has already confirmed, the Constitutional Council said in a separate decision. The seven “wise men” refused to re-examine this list, which was recommended to the head of state at the end of a “national dialogue”.

The anti-system candidate Bassirou Diomaye Faye, who has been imprisoned since April 2023, is on this list. For him, however, the question of a possible amnesty arises, which was approved by the National Assembly on the same day.

“Setting the date of the election beyond the term of office of the incumbent President of the Republic violates the constitution,” wrote the Sages. The wise men said they would replace the executive branch because it was “sluggish” in setting the date.

The Senegalese presidency took note of this sudden change in the calendar by announcing in the evening that Prime Minister Amadou Ba had been “relieved” of his post as head of the election campaign. He will be replaced by Interior Minister Sidiki Kaba, a spokesman said.

Since Monday, President Sall himself has referred the matter to the Constitutional Council for an opinion. The head of state presented recommendations resulting from a “national dialogue” that he convened last week to try to emerge from the crisis caused by the postponement of presidential elections, one of the most serious in recent decades.

President Sall shocked a country considered one of the most stable in West Africa and rocked by power grabs by ordering on February 3 the postponement of elections scheduled for February 25.

“National dialogue” was one of President Macky Sall’s responses to the crisis. The other was a bill seeking amnesty for acts of political violence in recent years, a text that has been widely criticized despite being intended to ease tensions.

After debating all day and observing a break visibly lengthened by the unexpected turn of events, the deputies approved, with 94 votes in favor and 49 against, this text, which is seen by its critics as protecting the perpetrators of serious acts, including homicides, was insulted.

Read alsoSenegal: Clashes and slogans against Macky Sall in Dakar

The project amnesties all offenses or crimes, whether tried or not, committed between February 1, 2021 and February 25, 2024 and “related to demonstrations or having political motives.”

Between 2021 and 2023, Senegal experienced several episodes of unrest, clashes, looting and looting, triggered in particular by the standoff between opponent Ousmane Sonko and the government. In February, Senegal was plagued by further unrest following the announcement of the postponement of elections. Since 2021, dozens of people have been killed, hundreds injured, and hundreds more arrested.

The issue of the application of amnesty to Ousmane Sonko and his possible return to the saddle during the election campaign excited the political class. The Constitutional Council's decisions appear to rule out Ousmane Sonko's return to the competition. Ousmane Sonko, third in the 2019 presidential election and declared candidate in 2024, has been detained since July 2023 and was excluded from the presidential election in which he was one of the favorites.

However, the amnesty could pave the way for his release from prison, as well as that of his number two, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, who was chosen by her party as his successor and who could run a campaign as his supporters are loudly demanding in the name of equality of the candidates.

The latest in a series of amnesties passed since independence could, without elaborating, mean the release of dozens of opponents.

The presidency justified the amnesty with the need to “appease the political and social climate.” The law “has the sole aim of reconciliation (…) President Macky Sall does not hide any evil intentions,” assured Farba Ngom, deputy of the presidential camp, during the debate.

But many political and social actors opposed the project and expressed outrage that neither a member of the security forces nor a government official would be held accountable. “This law is a license to continue murdering Senegalese. Amnesty law, amnesia law: not in my name. Justice for the murdered and tortured,” exclaimed MP Guy Marius Sagna.

With AFP

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