Presidential election in Senegal Two well known opponents are missing from

Presidential election in Senegal: Two well-known opponents are missing from the final list of candidates

Senegal's Constitutional Council released on Saturday a final list of 20 candidates for the February 25 presidential election, which does not include two notable opponents: Ousmane Sonko, currently in prison, and Karim Wade, son and minister of former President Abdoulaye Wade, as AFP reported.

The list includes the candidate for power, Prime Minister Amadou Bâ, former heads of government Idrissa Seck and Mahammed Boun Abdallah Dionne, as well as Bassirou Diomaye Diakhar Faye, who is presented as Mr Sonko's replacement candidate.

Mr Faye, 43, a member of Mr Sonko's disbanded party, is also detained but has not yet been brought to trial. According to a message posted on Facebook, he has been in prison since April 2023 for “contempt of court” and “defamation of a corporation.”

Ousmane Sonko, the central figure in a more than two-year standoff with the state that led to several episodes of deadly unrest, is expected not to be on the list. Popular with young people, he was one of the favorites in the presidential election.

Following a final appeal by Mr Sonko, the council rejected his candidacy on the grounds that he had been given a six-month suspended prison sentence for defamation on January 4, making him “barred for five years”, a case in which a minister was rejected.

In two other cases, Mr. Sonko was found guilty of debauchery of a minor in June and sentenced to two years in prison. He was then detained in late July on other charges, including incitement to insurrection and criminal association in connection with a terrorist enterprise, and attacking state security, a pending case.

Mr Sonko denounced a conspiracy to stop him from taking part in the 2024 presidential election, which the government denies.

There are two women on the final list: Rose Wardini, gynecologist and civil society actress, and entrepreneur Anta Babacar Ngom.

This is the first time that Senegal has organized a presidential election with so many candidates, constitutional lawyer Babacar Guèye told AFP on Saturday. Five candidates were selected in the 2019 presidential election, which President Macky Sall won.

“Inadmissible” candidacy of Karim Wade

Opponent Karim Wade, son and minister of former President Abdoulaye Wade (2000-2012), considered his candidacy “inadmissible” due to his dual French and Senegalese nationality, the council said.

Any presidential candidate “shall be of exclusive Senegalese nationality and enjoy his civil and political rights,” the constitution says.

Karim Wade, 55, born in France to a Senegalese father and a mother of French origin, submitted an affidavit dated December 21 stating that he had only Senegalese nationality, the council said.

However, the evidentiary document he presented was a decree dated January 16, published the following day in the Official Gazette of the French Republic. The court considers that the effects of the decree establishing Mr. Wade's renunciation of his French nationality are “not retroactive” and that his affidavit was “inaccurate” at the time it was filed.

Former minister Thierno Alassane Sall, himself a candidate, appealed Mr Wade's candidacy on Monday, deeming it unconstitutional.

On Sunday on X, Karim Wade denounced “a scandalous decision” and “a new legal conspiracy” and announced a referral to international courts.

Due to his conviction to six years in prison for illicit enrichment in 2015, he was unable to participate in the 2019 presidential election. After more than three years in prison, he was pardoned by President Sall in 2016 and has been living in exile abroad since then.

The National Assembly passed a law in August restoring his eligibility.

In less than a month and a half, there is complete uncertainty about the outcome of the two-round elections.

Senegal is organizing a presidential election for the first time without the participation of the outgoing president.

Macky Sall, elected for seven years in 2012 and re-elected in 2019, declared in July that he would not run again in February 2024. He then chose Prime Minister Amadou Bâ as his successor.