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Senegal: President Sall pledges to hold election ‘as soon as possible’

Senegalese President Macky Sall, who faces mounting pressure at home and abroad, vowed Friday to organise presidential elections “as soon as possible” after the top…

Senegalese President Macky Sall, who faces mounting pressure at home and abroad, vowed Friday to organise presidential elections “as soon as possible” after the top constitutional body overruled his decision to delay this month’s vote.

Sall’s last-minute move to postpone the February 25 poll until December triggered Senegal’s worst crisis in decades.

The decision sparked a widespread outcry and deadly protests in what is often seen as a bastion of stability in coup-hit West Africa.

The Constitutional Council’s ruling Thursday to annul the vote delay plunged the country into further uncertainty.

“The president of the republic intends to fully implement the decision of the Constitutional Council,” the presidency said in a statement.

“To this end, the head of state will without delay carry out the consultations necessary to organise the presidential election as soon as possible.”

Sall, who has been in power since 2012, said he called off this month’s vote over disputes about the disqualification of potential candidates and concern about a return to unrest seen in 2021 and 2023.

Parliament later approved the delay until December 15, but only after security forces entered the building and removed some opposition lawmakers who opposed the bill.

The vote paved the way for Sall – whose second term is due to expire in April – to remain in office until a successor was installed.

Three people have been killed during demonstrations against the vote delay, with security forces repressing attempts to mobilise.

Few people responded to calls for protests in the capital Dakar on Friday, AFP journalists saw, with the few dozen who turned up dispersed by police with tear gas.

A silent protest march planned for Saturday in Dakar has been authorised, unlike those in recent weeks, Elimane Kane, of the Aar Sunu Election (Let’s protect our election) collective that organised it, told AFP.

The opposition had decried Sall’s move as a “constitutional coup”, saying his party feared defeat at the ballot box for its candidate, Prime Minister Amadou Ba.

Sall’s term in office officially expires on April 2 and the head of state has repeatedly said he will not stand for a third term.

The Constitutional Council reiterated the fixed nature of the five-year presidential term.

Senegal faced growing calls from major international partners to swiftly organise the vote.

The West African regional bloc, ECOWAS, the European Union, France, Britain and the United States have all called on the authorities to comply with the Council’s ruling.

“We urge all stakeholders to come together in the spirit of Senegal’s strong democratic tradition to support a free and fair election conducted in a peaceful and timely manner,” US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement.

The UN also urged all parties to “ensure the holding of an inclusive and transparent presidential election within the framework of the constitution of Senegal.”

The Constitutional Council in January approved 20 candidates to run in the presidential election.

It remains to be seen whether the same list of candidates will be put forward again and when the vote will take place.

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