DAKAR, Senegal, Feb 24 — Several hundred people demonstrated in Dakar today calling on the president to set a date to elect his successor before his term ends on April 2.

President Macky Sall has faced uproar since he postponed the vote that was scheduled for February 25, triggering one the West African nation’s worst political crises.

The Constitutional Council overturned the delay and called last week for the vote to be held “as soon as possible”.

But Sall appears in no hurry.

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He has put off a decision on the date until after he talks to political and social actors from Monday. He said Thursday night that he hoped to reach an agreement by late Tuesday.

That has left the Senegalese people in the dark as to when they will be able to vote, and created a political clamour for the elections to take place soon.

Today’s protest saw hundreds answer the call of the F24 opposition grouping to gather on a sandy open space in a popular quarter of the capital.

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“We want elections”, protesters chanted, draped in national flags. “Macky Sall dictator.”

“I am demonstrating for one thing: the release of (jailed opposition leader Ousmane) Sonko,” 34-year-old refuse collector Ibrahim Niang told AFP.

In an apparent move to pacify public opinion, Sall has said he would consider provisional releases, pardons or an amnesty law for opposition figures including Sonko and his deputy Bassirou Diomaye Faye, who is also in jail.

According to Sall, in power since 2012, he delayed the election because of disputes over the disqualification of potential candidates and concerns about a return to unrest seen in 2021 and last year.

Most of the 20 candidates for president and a large civil society collective have announced they will refuse to take part in the talks Sall intends to stage.

“We oppose all proposals for dialogue and demand that a date be set before April 2,” Boubacar Camara, among the group of 16 candidates, said yesterday.

Opposition supporters chant during a demonstration in Dakar on February 24, 2024. Dakar residents are called to demonstrate on Saturday, either to put pressure on the head of state and get him to organize the presidential election before the official expiration of his mandate on April 2, or to support him. — AFP pic
Opposition supporters chant during a demonstration in Dakar on February 24, 2024. Dakar residents are called to demonstrate on Saturday, either to put pressure on the head of state and get him to organize the presidential election before the official expiration of his mandate on April 2, or to support him. — AFP pic

‘Attempt at diversion’

If no agreement is reached during the dialogue, Sall said it would be up to the Constitutional Council to decide the next step.

He stressed that his mandate would end as planned on April 2.

But he left open the question of when the vote would take place, adding later that he did not think it would be possible before April 2.

The Aar Sunu Election (Protect Our Election) collective of 40 Senegalese civil society groups also rejected Sall’s dialogue offer, describing it as an “attempt at diversion”.

“Our position is (before) April 2, otherwise there will be a crisis,” said Malick Diop, one of the collective’s organisers.

Aar Sunu Election mobilised several thousand people in the capital Dakar last weekend.

The opposition has denounced Sall’s last-minute move to delay the vote as a “constitutional coup”, saying his party feared defeat at the ballot box.

The election chaos has plunged the traditionally stable West African country into turmoil and sparked unrest that has left four people dead. — AFP