The announcement that the presidential elections will not be held in Senegal until December 15, 2024 fell like a bucket of cold water on the Senegalese population. The elections were initially scheduled for this February 25 and never, since the country’s independence in 1960, has an election day been postponed for eleven months. This announcement came after the president, Macky Sall, announced last Saturday that the elections would be postponed due to existing differences regarding the validation of presidential candidates through the Constitutional Council.
The vote that took place in the National Assembly to decide this new date was not without incidents. A group of deputies opposed to the Government’s decision refused to allow the session to proceed properly and were immediately evicted by the gendarmerie, where The scenes of the uniformed men breaking into the plenary session ran through every screen of every Senegalese phone. and aroused new frustrations. Even the Minister of State, Eva Marie Coll Seck, announced her resignation for not agreeing with this postponement of the elections that many call an “institutional coup d’état.”
Popular protests against this democratic setback have taken place sporadically in recent days throughout the main cities of the country, although it would be in Dakar, the capital, where the largest concentrations have occurred. Unlike the protests that took place in the summer of 2023 and which left 19 dead as a result of clashes with the police, this time no no deceased.
The gendarmerie has used tear gas on several occasions, while protesters burn tires to block some streets and make it difficult for police vehicles to pass through. Likewise, access to mobile Internet has been restricted throughout the country since this Monday, while the license of Walfadjri, a private television station that had been reporting on the situation with a position contrary to Macky Sall, has been withdrawn.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) issued a statement this Tuesday urging the political community to “urgently take the necessary measures to restore the electoral calendar in accordance with the provisions of the Senegalese Constitution”, while at the same time asked security forces to “protect the fundamental rights of citizens”. ECOWAS, which has suffered a serious crisis since the coup d’état that occurred in Niger during the month of July and which saw three member countries (Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger) leave the organization two weeks ago, is once again facing a new crisis that affects the entire region. Since this Saturday, the Alliance of Sahel States adopted a critical stance with the postponement of the elections, and compares the attitude of ECOWAS towards Macky Sall with the sanctions that the Sahel countries have suffered in recent years as a result of coups d’état that established military junta in power.
It is worth remembering that Guinea Bissau, a neighboring nation of Senegal, is also currently going through a strong institutional crisis. After the legislative elections that took place last June and which granted an overwhelming victory to the opposition, President Sissoco Embaló decided in December dissolve the National Assembly and did not offer a date to hold new elections. Embaló, whose relationship with Macky Sall is evident in the Senegalese soldiers who patrol the Guinean capital to guarantee the president’s permanence in power, has been the West African leader who has shown the most support for Macky Sall since the beginning of the Senegalese crisis. .
Senegal is one of the most regionally influential nations in West Africa and its democracy has not suffered from civil wars or coups since its independence. Its democratic stability, in addition to directly affecting the flows of refugees towards Europe, serves as a basis for guaranteeing the security of a region besieged by jihadism and coups d’état that perpetuate the military junta in power. The next few days will be critical to find out if the elections will finally be postponed until December, or if Macky Sall will consider shortening this date.