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Police, protesters clash in Senegal over postponement of presidential polls

  • Lawmakers mull tenure extension for President Sall
  • Crisis could further threaten West Africa’s stability – Analysts

Riot police in Senegal on Monday fired tear gas outside parliament in the capital Dakar, as crowds tried to gather to protest against the postponement of the presidential election scheduled for February 25th, according to BBC Africa.

The members of parliament were due to debate a bill that would reschedule the poll for six months.

Earlier, the government cut access to the internet on mobile phones, to try to prevent what it called the dissemination of hateful messages and threats of disturbances.

On Saturday, President Macky Sall announced he was delaying this month’s election because of a dispute about the eligibility of candidates.

As protesters shouted slogans, lawmakers inside the National Assembly building started debating a bill that would reschedule the Feb. 25 vote to Aug. 25 and extend President Macky Sall’s mandate until his successor is installed.

“They are trying to extend the president’s term, which is illegal and not allowed,” protester Mohammad Mbengue told Reuters.

None of Senegal’s presidential elections has been postponed before. Sall said he signed a decree to delay the upcoming one because of a dispute between the judiciary and parliament over the disqualification of some candidates and the reported dual-nationality of some qualified candidates, but opposition leaders condemned his action as a “coup.”

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Communication, Telecommunications, and Digital Economy said mobile internet services were cut on Monday “due to the dissemination of several hateful and subversive messages relayed on social networks in the context of threats and disturbances to public order.”

It comes a day after the Senegalese government took a private television channel off-air, accusing it of inciting violence in its coverage of the protests. 

Amnesty International’s Senegal chapter condemned the government’s actions and urged it to “Respect freedom of the press and the rights of the citizens to be informed”. 

Political tensions have run high in Senegal for at least a year. Authorities also cut internet access from cellphones in June 2023 when supporters of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko clashed with security forces. Sonko is one of the two opposition leaders whom election authorities disqualified from the final list of presidential candidates this month.

US-based TV – ABC News cited some analysts as saying the crisis in Senegal could further threaten West Africa’s stability at a time when the region is struggling with a recent surge in coups and threats to democratic institutions.

Sall’s unprecedented announcement plunged Senegal into uncharted constitutional waters that threatened to further tarnish its reputation as a bastion of democratic stability in a region swept by coups.

 

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