Senegal’s political landscape was engulfed in chaos as the parliament voted on Monday to postpone the presidential election until December 15.
The contentious decision unfolded amidst a tumultuous scene where opposition lawmakers found themselves forcefully ejected from the chambers as they deliberated President Macky Sall’s earlier call to delay the crucial election.
Security forces swiftly intervened, storming the legislative building to remove several opposition lawmakers who sought to obstruct the voting process for the unprecedented delay of the presidential election, initially slated for February 25.
The newly adopted bill extends Sall’s tenure, which was set to conclude on April 2, until a fresh election is held.
In response to the mounting protests against the delay, authorities imposed restrictions on mobile internet access. As tensions escalated, security forces resorted to tear gas to disperse demonstrators gathered outside the legislative premises.
Many protesters faced arrests as they flooded the streets of Dakar, voicing their dissent by burning tyres and denouncing the country’s leadership.
Amid the heated debate over the bill, two opposition parties lodged a court petition challenging the election delay, seeking intervention from Senegal’s Constitutional Council to uphold the electoral process.
The crisis gripping Senegal underscores a pivotal moment for one of Africa’s most stable democracies, particularly amidst a backdrop of recent coup attempts across the region.
Sall, who previously pledged not to seek a third term, cited an electoral dispute between the parliament and judiciary regarding candidatures as justification for the postponement.
However, opposition leaders and candidates vehemently opposed the move, labelling it a “coup” against the democratic process.
The African Union urged the government to expedite the election process and called for a resolution of political disputes through dialogue.
Activists like Guy Marius Sagna, an opposition lawmaker, emphasised the people’s right to resist what they perceive as a constitutional infringement.
The decision to revoke the broadcasting licence of the private Walf television network, along with the abrupt shutdown of mobile internet services, drew criticism from Amnesty International, condemning the government’s actions as a violation of freedom of expression and press rights enshrined in Senegal’s constitution.
Sall’s assertion of a “sufficiently serious and confusing situation” stemming from disputes over candidate disqualifications and reported dual-nationality issues underscores the deep-seated political tensions that have simmered in Senegal for over a year.
With the postponement of the election, observers like Mucahid Durmaz, a senior analyst at global risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft, warn of a concerning democratic decline in Senegal.
The erosion of democratic principles not only jeopardises Senegal’s reputation as a beacon of stability but also emboldens anti-democratic forces across West Africa.