Senegal president says controversial third term constitutional

Senegalese President who is also the African Union chairman Macky Macky Sall. PHOTO/FILE/AFP

What you need to know:

  • In an increasingly tense political climate, the opposition has repeatedly alleged that Sall intends to override the constitution.

Senegal's president has rejected claims that it would be unconstitutional for him to seek a controversial third mandate, again refusing to confirm whether he plans to do so in an interview published Monday.

The opposition claims that Senegal's constitution prohibits Macky Sall -- who was elected in 2012 and again in 2019 -- from running again in the next election, scheduled for February 2024.

In an increasingly tense political climate, the opposition has repeatedly alleged that Sall intends to override the constitution to do so.

Senegal's constitution was revised in 2016 to shorten presidential terms to five years from seven. It states that "no one can exercise more than two consecutive terms".

But, in an interview with French magazine L'Express posted online Monday, Sall argued that when the Constitutional Council was consulted before the revision, it considered his first term to be outside the scope of the reform.

"Legally speaking, the debate has been settled for a long time," he said in the interview. 

"Now, should I run for a third term or not? It's a political debate, I admit it."

Sall continued: "I have not yet given my answer. I have an agenda, a job to do. When the time comes, I will make my position known, first to my supporters, then to the Senegalese people."

He also spoke about his main political opponent, Ousmane Sonko, who is currently facing two court cases that could threaten his eligibility for the election. 

Sonko claims the charges are part of a plot to torpedo his chances.

In 2021, the firebrand politician was summoned to court in an alleged rape case, triggering the most serious riots in years in Senegal, a country reputed to be a rare island of stability in troubled West Africa.

At least a dozen people were killed at the time. 

Last week, a defamation trial against Sonko led to clashes between his supporters and security forces. 

Sall accused Sonko of "manipulating" the streets.

"An individual cannot block the capital, Dakar, on the sole pretext that he is summoned to court," Sall said. 

"If Senegal was not a genuine democracy, believe me, his fate would have been settled long ago."

When asked about the possibility of further unrest, the president warned: "One thing is certain: those who think they can intimidate the government and block justice are deluding themselves."