ECOWAS urges Senegal to set new election date

Reading Time: 3 minutes

West Africa’s main regional bloc ECOWAS on Friday called on authorities in Senegal to set a new date for the presidential election in accordance with a ruling that its postponement to December was unconstitutional.

A bill that delayed the February 25 vote and plunged the country into electoral uncertainty was overturned on Thursday by Senegal’s Constitutional Council.

But it was unclear whether President Macky Sall would comply with the council’s request for the poll to be held as soon as possible.

Any resistance from the authorities would risk more unrest. The week-long electoral crisis has already led to violent protests and warnings of authoritarian overreach in one of coup-hit West Africa’s more stable democracies.

ECOWAS, which has previously said the postponement went against Senegal’s democratic tradition, urged “all stakeholders in the electoral process to comply with the decision of the Constitutional Council and called on the competent authorities to set a date for the presidential election.”

Neither the presidency nor the government have yet confirmed they will accept the decision.

Early on Friday, spokesperson Abdou Karim Fofana said on a private radio station that the government took note of the council’s ruling but did not specify if this meant it would comply with it.

He said the different political factions would need to talk with one another to find a way forward.

The presidency has not confirmed how it will proceed, but a spokesperson responded on Friday to a question about when the elections might now be held.

“The answer lies in the Constitutional Council’s decision, which calls on the competent authorities to set a new date for organising the elections as soon as possible,” Sall’s spokesperson told journalists.

Sall has previously said he delayed the election due to a dispute over the candidate list and alleged corruption within the Constitutional Council that he warned would undermine the credibility of the poll.

Many opposition figures have welcomed the council’s ruling and some have called on Sall to set an election date before April 2, when his mandate expires.

“The president has no choice: on April 2, he’ll have to go,” said opposition leader Khalifa Sall, who has condemned recent events as an “institutional coup.”

“Many of us hoped and wanted the council to decide the (election) dates… but it’s not its role,” he said at press conference in the capital Dakar, adding that he was prepared to take part in talks with all sides.

Despite the council’s ruling, a protest against the election delay scheduled for Friday afternoon appeared set to go ahead.

In its statement, ECOWAS called on “the political class and all stakeholders to show restraint and give priority to inclusive dialogue.”