1705880425 Senegal39s opposition leader barred from presidential election

Senegal's opposition leader barred from presidential election

Senegal39s opposition leader barred from presidential election

Senegal's main opposition leader, Ousmane Sonko, who has been in prison since last summer, has been excluded from the presidential elections that will take place on February 25 in that African country. The Constitutional Court published this Saturday the final list of candidates for these elections, from which both Sonko and another important candidate, the also opposition Karim Wade, son of former President Abdoulaye Wade, were eliminated. Of the 93 candidacies submitted, the Supreme Court approved only 20, including those of three candidates close to Sonko and that of Amadou Ba, the current prime minister and deputy to outgoing President Macky Sall, weakened by infighting. The elections are considered to be the most open in the country's recent history.

The exclusion from the presidential race of Ousmane Sonko, who was convicted in two separate trials of defamation and bribing young people and was also accused of inciting insurrection and conspiring against the state, was predictable but was the subject of a long tirade and legal dispute looseness. His political party, Patriots of Senegal for Ethics, Work and Fraternity (Pastef), has been banned since last summer after it encouraged violent protests that were harshly repressed and left more than 50 dead. More than a thousand people, mostly young people, were imprisoned against a backdrop of restricted freedoms and social and political tensions.

However, three candidates close to Sonko were confirmed by the Constitutional Court. These are Bassirou Diomaye Faye, Pastef's number two and also currently in custody, as well as Cheikh Tidiane Diéye and Habib Sy, both members of the opposition coalition Yewwi Askan Wi (YAW). Everything indicates that two of these three candidates will exclude themselves, presumably Diéye and Sy, so that all support will go to Faye, who enjoys the full trust of the imprisoned opposition leader. Other YAW leaders like Déthié Fall maintain their options.

But Sonko is not the only opponent who was excluded from the final list of candidates. Karim Wade, who was backed by the historic Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS), has also dropped out of the presidential race, despite announcing his intention to approach international bodies to push through his candidacy. The Constitutional Court based its decision on the fact that Wade had dual French-Senegalese nationality at the time of his appearance, which the Basic Law expressly prohibits, and that he had lied about it. On January 16, the candidate renounced his French citizenship, but according to the high court, it was already too late.

The exclusion of opponents Sonko and Wade could have cleared the way for current Prime Minister Amadou Ba, appointed by President Macky Sall. However, the reality is completely different. The 62-year-old economist and fiscal policy expert, who headed the economics and foreign policy departments before his appointment as head of government in September 2022, faces both a lack of popular support and the rejection of a significant number of the party's historic barons in power, who consider him a groundbreaking careerist. In fact, two of Macky Sall's supporters who sought to succeed him, former ministers Mahammed Boun Abdallah Dionne and Aly Ngouille Nidaye, are also candidates and will weaken Amadou Ba's voice.

Macky Sall's resignation to run for a third term, which is actually prohibited by the Senegalese constitution, sparked a battle between a dozen possible candidates within the Alliance for the Republic (APR), the party he founded more than 15 years ago founded and led him to the presidency of the country. His choice of Amadou Ba was not for everyone. Other main candidates confirmed by the Constitutional Court are opponents Idrissa Seck, who came second in the 2019 presidential election, and Khalifa Sall, former mayor of Dakar. Only two women are running, Anta Babacar Ngom and Rose Wardini, both with little political experience and little chance of success in one of the most uncertain presidential elections in Senegal's recent history.

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The violent protests since 2021, following the first arrest of Ousmane Sonko, and especially last June when he was held in his home before his detention, heralded a turbulent context for these elections. However, the government's forceful response succeeded, for now, in demobilizing the supporters of the Senegalese popular opposition, who will have to decide in prison who to appoint as their candidate.

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