Senegal president calls off February 25 election

Sall said he had signed the decree of an ongoing investigation into the integrity of the election process (GUY PETERSON)
Sall said he had signed the decree of an ongoing investigation into the integrity of the election process (GUY PETERSON)

SenegalesePresident Macky Sall on Saturday announced the indefinite postponement of a presidential election scheduled for February 25, just hours before official campaigning was due to start.

The move, which comes following a dispute between the National Assembly and the Constitutional Court over the rejection of candidates, has been decried by opposition leaders and the Secretary General of the government Abdou Latif Coulibaly resigned shortly after.

In an address to the nation, Sall said he signed a decree abolishing a previous measure that set the date, because lawmakers were investigating two Constitutional Council judges whose integrity in the election process has been questioned.

"I will begin an open national dialogue to bring together the conditions for a free, transparent and inclusive election," Sall added, without giving a new date.

Under the country's election code, at least 80 days must pass between the publication of the decree and the election, which means the earliest it could now be held is late April.

It is the first time a Senegalese presidential election has been postponed.

A November 2023 decree signed by Sall set the election for February 25, with 20 candidates in the running but two major opposition figures excluded.

Sall reiterated Saturday that he will not be a candidate. He has repeatedly said he would hand over power in early April to the winner of the vote.

Thierno Alassane Sall, the head of an opposition party, posted on X that the president's move amounted to "high treason against the Republic."

"This is not a delay of the election, but a cancelation pure and simple," El Malick Ndiaye, the former spokesman of an opposition party that has been disbanded, said on Facebook.

After announcing he would not run for a third term as president, Sall designated Prime Minister Amadou Ba from his party as his would-be successor.

Ba faces a possible defeat in the elections, and his party has been split over his candidacy.

The Constitutional Council has excluded dozens of candidates from the vote, including firebrand anti-system figurehead Ousmane Sonko, who has been jailed since July 2023, and Karim Wade, son of former president Abdoulaye Wade.

Wade's supporters in the National Assembly called for a parliamentary inquiry into the partiality of two judges on the Constitutional Court, and the motion was passed by the Assembly on January 31, with some members of Sall's party supporting it.

Wade was barred from running because he allegedly also holds French citizenship, a decision he denounced as "scandalous".

Meanwhile, Rose Wardini, one of only two women in the approved list of candidates, was detained Friday on charges of allegedly hiding her French citizenship, according to judicial sources.