Senegal Election Delay

Senegal’s Parliament ignited a firestorm of controversy by approving a delay in the presidential election, propelling the West African nation into unprecedented political turmoil. This “Senegal Delays Election” decision, as widely dubbed, sparked violent protests and heightened fears for the country’s democratic stability.

The vote was rescheduled to Dec 15 from Feb 25 after a parliamentary session marred by opposition lawmakers being ejected from the chambers after they tried to block proceedings on Monday evening. The decision means President Macky Sall whose second and final term was set to end on April 2, will remain in office until a successor takes power.

Senegal’s reputation as a bastion of democracy in an unstable region is on the line, after protestors clashed with police outside parliament on Monday, says BBC.

Opposition leaders had condemned the proposed delay as a “constitutional coup” and assault on democracy.

Police and protesters clashed after Senegal elections were postponed. As the lawmakers debated the bill in Parliament, security forces fired tear gas at protesters who had gathered outside the parliament in Dakar, burning tyres and criticising Sall. Authorities restricted access to mobile internet services on Monday to prevent what they called “hateful and subversive messages” from spreading online and posing a threat to public order.

The crisis has led to fears of the kind of violent unrest that broke out in March 2021 and June 2023, which resulted in dozens of deaths and hundreds of arrests.

Tensions have been rising for more than two years following what the opposition says was a deliberate attempt to exclude them from the election by having their candidates charged with crimes they had not committed. One major opposition party was banned.

Democracy has been on the backslide in large parts of Africa, particularly West Africa.
Senegal has so far been known as a country with a strong democracy, but that reputation may be under threat. Human Rights Watch warned that Senegal risked losing its democratic credentials.

Ecowas and the African Union have called for dialogue. France, the US and the EU have called for elections as soon as possible. The Chairman of African Union Commission urged Senegal to resolve its “political dispute through consultation, understanding and dialogue.”

The credibility of regional organisations such as The AU and Ecowas has been significantly tarnished due to their inability to confront the democratic deficit in the civilian-run countries.” All eyes will be on the regional blocs to see how they treat another democratic headache in West Africa, concludes BBC.

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