2024February 2024Spring 2024 ElectionsFocusAfrica

FOCUS on Spring 2024 Elections: Senegal

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Sofia A. Diaz
Staff Writer

Voters in Senegal were left confused and outraged over the indefinite postponement of the 2024 Senegalese presidential election, which was initially scheduled for February 25. President Macky Sall formally announced the postponement on February 4, which led to an outburst of protests in the capital city of Dakar, reports Al Jazeera. In the following days, Al Jazeera reports that a parliamentary vote extended the delay until December 15. 

President Sall assured the public on February 3 that the reasoning for his declaration of the postponement was regarding potential corruption within the list of eligible candidates. The announcement left his opposers and voters disgruntled. As per BBC News, critics believe Sall is attempting to run again for a third term or that he may have motive to influence his preferred successor, Prime Minister Amadou Ba, however he has denied these rumors. This is a prominent concern for voters considering last month’s exclusion of valued opposition members on behalf of Senegal’s Constitutional Council. 

According to The New York Times, the U.S. Embassy issued a public statement warning of protests in the Dakar perimeter. Despite the public notice, people remained calm and continued business as usual. BBC News reports that Khalifa Sall (unrelated to President Sall), who is a former mayor of Dakar, was said to have declared the postponement to be a ‘constitutional coup;’ one that voters should be urging to speak up against. Another candidate from the election, Thierno Alassane Sall (also unrelated to President Sall), had allegedly stated that the postponement resembles “high treason” and urged his supporters to protest before the National Assembly, placing emphasis on “standing on the right side of history.” 

Hundreds of men and women of varying ages began gathering in the capital in response to the call. Police trained to handle riots were called to the scene and reportedly fired tear gas to disperse opposition leaders’ supporters, according to Al Jazeera. France 24 reports candidate Thierno Alassane Sall to have stated, “the situation is deplorable. We came to pray, and we got gassed. It’s intolerable.” Reuters reports the death toll amid protests has raised to three, as of February 11.

Shortly following Sall’s announcement, Senegal’s parliament allowed the extension of his tenure and scheduled the new date for the election to be December 15. BBC News reports that some of the opposing leaders stated that their affiliates had been “forcibly removed from the parliament building by police in riot gear,” with the intent to stop their ability to vote. 

Voters fear that Senegal’s longstanding stable democracy is now at risk. The United States Institute for Peace states that most Senegalese believe their democracy has been weakened in recent years, according to Afrobarometer, an independent research group that has conducted repeated annual surveys. Al Jazeera reports that so far, at least three of twenty candidates have filed motions in response to the delay, with two additional candidates planning to litigate the matter in the courts, according to confirmed Constitutional documents. Senegalese authorities allegedly placed restrictions on mobile internet access from the evening of February 4, considering threats to people or public order and hate messages via social media. 

A protester wanting to be addressed by first name only, Dame, informed Reuters that “Senegal has been known as a country with a strong democracy, but this is no longer the case,” as himself and the remainder of the voters have one interest in mind: a fair election. 

Research and advocacy group Human Rights Watch has warned that Senegal’s democracy is at risk after events surrounding the 2024 presidential election. 

Image courtesy of Getty Images

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