Senegal candidates decry delay in setting new poll date

Civil society groups and political groups hold placards as they march calling on authorities respect the election date, in Dakar, on February 17, 2024. Senegal's Constitutional Council on February 16, 2024 overturned the postponement of this month's presidential election, a historic decision that opens up a realm of uncertainty for the traditionally stable West African nation. Photo/AFP

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The collective is calling for the election to be held before Sall's term officially runs out on April 2

Fifteen candidates in Senegal's delayed presidential election have accused President Macky Sall of "ill will" and vowed to take action to ensure a new poll date is swiftly established.

The announcement came as the civil society collective Aar Sunu Election (Protect Our Election) said it had organised a new rally for Saturday.

The collective is calling for the election to be held before Sall's term officially runs out on April 2.

It says the vote originally scheduled for February 25 must be held by March 3 at the latest.

"An inexplicable slowness has been noted. Nothing has been done" despite developments over the past week, the 15 candidates said in a joint statement released late Tuesday.

"Everything is moving at the pace of President Macky Sall's ill will," the statement added.

The 15 signatories include former Dakar mayor Khalifa Sall and imprisoned opposition candidate Bassirou Diomaye Diakhar Faye, whose name was added by proxy.

Faye is deputy to anti-establishment firebrand Ousmane Sonko, who is also in prison.

Sonko's political party said its national youth coordinator, Ngagne Demba Toure, was arrested at his home on Wednesday, three days after returning from Mali where he had fled fearing detention in Senegal.

The movement demanded Toure's immediate release.


President Sall's last-minute delay to Sunday's vote plunged the traditionally stable West African nation into its worst political crisis in decades and sparked unrest which left four people dead.

A 22-year-old studying in the northern city of Saint-Louis died on Wednesday after being admitted to intensive care in a coma following a protest 10 days ago.

A hospital source in Saint-Louis said the man had inhaled tear gas from recent demonstrations.

The opposition decried Sall's move as a "constitutional coup", saying his party feared defeat at the ballot box for its candidate, Prime Minister Amadou Ba.

The incumbent has repeatedly said he will not seek re-election for a third term.

Last week, Senegal's Constitutional Council overturned the vote delay, which would have kept Sall in office until his successor was installed.

The Council said it was "impossible to organise the presidential election on the initially scheduled date" but invited "the competent authorities to hold it as soon as possible".

However, the question of when that would be was left open.

The 15 candidates said the electoral process should have been resumed and accused Sall of neglecting his duty to organise the election.

"Everything suggests that Macky Sall cannot come to terms with the fact that his attempt to sabotage the presidential election was thwarted by the Constitutional Council and the people," they said.

'Farewell party'

The candidates announced "a series of actions aimed at ensuring that the election is held within the allotted time".

The 15 are among the 19 names included in the Constitutional Council's updated list of candidates for the delayed presidential poll.

The Aar Sunu Election collective said it would hold a rally in the capital Dakar on Saturday, the day before the election was due to have taken place.

It called on participants to come with their voter cards, for what it described as Sall's "farewell party".

The collective also urged voters to head to polling stations on Sunday in a symbolic gesture.

Aar Sunu Election on Saturday mobilised several thousand people in the capital for the first authorised protest since Sall postponed the election.

Senegal's eight public universities last week staged a two-day strike in protest over the death of the first student during unrest in Saint-Louis on February 9.

On Wednesday, several dozen students gathered at Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar to demand the reopening of the campus, which has been closed since deadly unrest last June.

A heavy police presence accompanied the gathering.

"We want the university to open next week at the latest," Modou Diagne, a student representative, told AFP.

Senegal's international partners had expressed concern about the political turmoil.

But Sall's announcement that he would "fully" implement the decision of the Constitutional Council and the provisional release of hundreds of prisoners, appear to have calmed tensions.