Senegal's president estimates coming election date as postponement plans fall through

Senegal’s President Macky Sall told a national dialogue Monday that elections will be held before the rainy season begins around July, and reiterated his commitment to leave office before his mandate ends in April.

But the election’s 16 candidates refused to take part in the dialogue, insisting that an election date must be set as soon as possible in line with a court order earlier this month.

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Sall, who has said he wouldn’t run again after his two terms in office, had postponed the election for 10 months while citing unresolved disputes over who could run. Senegal’s Constitutional Court struck down the delay as illegal.

The court on Feb. 15 ordered the government to set a new election date as soon as possible, but Sall’s government still hasn’t done so.

Macky Sall, President of Senegal at the UN general assembly

Macky Sall, President of Senegal, addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023 at U.N. headquarters. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

The national dialogue is intended to foster trust among the population and political actors and includes civil society members and religious leaders.

“Dialogue and consultation are precisely what is needed to heal these weaknesses and move forward in the quest for the ideal of democracy,” Sall said.

Senegal had been seen as one of Africa’s most stable democracies, but disputes over the election have plunged the country into a political crisis.

In another attempt to calm the West African nation, the president said he would submit a general amnesty law addressing the sometimes deadly protests in which hundreds of people were jailed.

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It was unclear who would benefit from the amnesty law and if leading opposition political figures like Ousmane Sonko would benefit. Sonko is in jail and barred from running in the election. He is charged with calling for an insurrection and convicted of “corrupting youth.”

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