Senegal's government sets March 24 as the new date for the delayed presidential election

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — The Senegalese government has set March 24 as the new date for the country’s delayed presidential election, its spokesperson said Wednesday after a meeting of the Council of Ministers, also announcing the dissolution of the government and appointment of a new prime minister.

President Macky Sall, who is prevented for running for president again because of term limits, said in early February that he was postponing the election for 10 months, just weeks before it was set to take place on Feb. 25. The announcement plunged Senegal into chaos as opposition protests filled the streets.

Senegal’s highest election authority, the Constitutional Council, rejected the move to delay the vote and ordered the government to set a new election date as soon as possible.

On Wednesday, following a meeting of the Council of Ministers, government spokesperson Abdou Karim Fofana said in the statement the president had informed the council that the date for the new election had been set for Sunday, March 24, 2024.”

“The President of the Republic also informed the Prime Minister and ministers of the formation of a new Government," the statement said.

Prime Minister Amadou Ba, an election frontrunner who has been endorsed by the outgoing president, was replaced by Sidiki Kaba who was the interior minister.

Wednesday's announcement came as news broke that the Constitutional Council had rejected a proposal by civil, political and religious leaders that the election be held on June 2.

Senegal's election authority, which now has less than three weeks to prepare for the crucial vote, did not immediately issue any public statement on the new date.

Sall already said he will step down by April 2 when his tenure is due to end but there had been concerns over who would take over from him if elections were not hold before then.

In postponing the election, he had cited the controversies over the final list of candidates — some of whom were disqualified — as a major concern that could threaten the country's stability.

But the opposition accused him of a “constitutional coup,” alleging that he was plotting to prolong his stay in office. Sall denied this in an interview with The Associated Press, saying the country needed more time to resolve the controversies.

For a country that used to be seen as a beacon of democratic stability in West Africa, the election delay raised concerns about the democratic decline in West Africa, a region plagued by coups and insecurity.