Senegal’s democracy at risk as president calls off election
On Saturday, President Macky Sall called off the election for his replacement without naming a new date, which means he will remain in power extralegally, thrusting the former rock of West African stability into crisis. On Monday, Sall called a special session of Parliament to consider a bill endorsing his decision and allowing a delay of up to six months.
What happened? Karim Wade, son of Sall’s predecessor and a political rival, was running for president but a constitutional court blocked his candidacy last month, alleging he held dual French and Senegalese citizenship. Wade claims he had renounced his French citizenship, and his party launched an investigation into two of the court’s justices last week. Then, in a masterstroke of political judo, Sall backed the investigation – and used it as the excuse to call off the elections.
Will Sall get away with it? The opposition parties rejected the cancellation, and police used tear gas on scattered groups of protesters in Dakar on Sunday, but the mass of civil society did not take to the streets. If elections do go forward – there’s no guarantee – the constitution requires 80 days' notice, and who knows how long the inquiry will take.
On the international stage, the Economic Community of West African States expressed concern but did not condemn the cancellation. ECOWAS has struggled to maintain democratic unity, with military juntas seizing control of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger in recent years, all of which announced their withdrawal last week.