Senegal: Macky Sall promises to leave power, but without setting a date for the elections

Written by Dr. Florence Akano

President Macky Sall of Senegal attempted to calm mounting tensions over the upcoming presidential election in a televised address Thursday, reaffirming his commitment to respect the law and step down by April 2nd. However, his statement did little to quell concerns about his intentions and the lack of a concrete election date, leaving the country’s democratic future hanging in the balance.

Sall’s address followed a controversial attempt to postpone the election, initially scheduled for February 26th, by 10 months. The move, citing unresolved disputes over eligible candidates, was deemed unconstitutional by the nation’s Constitutional Court, marking a significant rebuke to the president.

Despite Sall’s pledge to respect term limits, his openness to holding the election before or after April 2nd raised eyebrows. Opposition figures, including 15 out of 20 approved candidates, remain deeply sceptical, viewing the proposed national dialogue as a stalling tactic and demanding a firm election date before April 2nd.

The president’s assurance follows a contentious decision by the ruling coalition to extend his rule. A move met with opposition from various quarters. Despite efforts to legitimize the extension through parliamentary procedures, opposition lawmakers vehemently opposed the decision, prompting widespread public outcry and accusations of democratic backsliding.

Nevertheless, Sall emphasized the necessity of national dialogue in charting the country’s political trajectory post-April 2nd. He expressed openness to engaging with political stakeholders in finding a consensus-driven solution to the electoral impasse. “The country cannot remain without a President of the Republic. The forthcoming dialogue will certainly have to decide or propose whether a consensus can be reached on the way forward,” remarked Sall, highlighting the imperative of inclusive decision-making in safeguarding democratic principles.

Amidst the political turmoil, opposition voices have remained steadfast in their demand for timely elections and rejected the prospect of protracted dialogue. Notably, fifteen out of twenty presidential candidates endorsed a call for elections to be held no later than April 2nd, underscoring the urgency of restoring electoral legitimacy and democratic governance.

The Constitutional Court’s intervention further underscored the imperative of adhering to constitutional principles and ensuring the integrity of democratic institutions. By mandating the government to set a new election date promptly, the court reaffirmed its role as a bulwark against executive overreach and a guarantor of democratic norms.

However, challenges persist as distrust and scepticism cloud prospects for constructive dialogue. Opposition figures and civil society groups have denounced the proposed dialogue as a stalling tactic, insisting on concrete action to uphold electoral integrity and democratic values. Concerns over Sall’s intentions and accusations of political manoeuvring continue to fuel uncertainty and unrest, exacerbating an already volatile political climate.

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Dr. Florence Akano

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