- Senegal’s government restricted mobile internet access and hindered protesters as lawmakers debated a bill to extend President Macky Sall’s term.
- President Sall decided not to run for a third term in July but delayed the election due to concerns over candidate lists and other controversies.
- The National Assembly has discussed a bill proposing a six-month postponement, potentially pushing the election to August.
Senegal’s government on Monday restricted mobile internet access and impeded protesters as federal lawmakers considered a bill to extend President Macky Sall’s tenure following his decision to postpone the country’s Feb. 25 presidential election.
Sall announced in July that he would not seek a third term in office. On Saturday, he cited questions over the approved list of candidates and other election controversies for his decision to delay this month’s vote.
Members of the National Assembly were deliberating on a bill that recommends a postponement of up to six months. If approved, the legislation would put the next likely election date in August, four months after Sall’s presidency is due to end.
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On Monday, two opposition parties filed a court petition challenging the election delay. Their request for Senegal’s Constitutional Council to direct “the continuation of the electoral process” could likely set up a prolonged legal dispute and further deepen existing tensions between lawmakers and the judiciary.
The African Union urged the government to organize the election “as soon as possible” and called on everyone involved “to resolve any political dispute through consultation, understanding and civilized dialogue.”
Outside the legislature, security forces fired tear gas to disperse opposition supporters who assembled to protest against the bill. Protesters also burned tires and blocked access roads in Dakar, Senegal’s capital. Several were arrested.
“We will not accept a constitutional coup in this country. It is up to the people to come out and liberate themselves,” said Guy Marius Sagna, an activist and opposition lawmaker.
None of Senegal’s presidential elections have 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. Opposition leaders condemned his action as a “coup.”
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The Ministry of Communication, Telecommunications and Digital Economy said mobile internet services were cut 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.”
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 two opposition leaders whom election authorities disqualified from the final list of presidential candidates this month.
Analysts say 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.