Opposition party supporters and police have clashed in the Senegalese capital Dakar after President Macky Sall announced the indefinite postponement of a presidential election set for February 25, sparking a wave of international concern.
On Sunday, heeding the call of some opposition candidates, hundreds of men and women of all ages, waving Senegalese flags or wearing the jersey of the national football team, converged in the early afternoon at a roundabout on one of the capital’s main roads.
Police responded with tear gas and then pursued the fleeing protesters through adjoining streets, while some demonstrators responded by throwing rocks.
In addition, Senegalese security forces detained presidential candidate Anta Babacar Ngom near the protest, her campaign manager told Reuters
Just a day before official campaigning was due to begin, Sall plunged the nation into the unknown, saying he intervened because of a dispute between the National Assembly and the Constitutional Court over the rejection of candidates.
Lawmakers are investigating two Constitutional Council judges whose integrity in the election process h as been questioned.
“I will begin an open national dialogue to bring together the conditions for a free, transparent and inclusive election,” Sall said, without providing a new date.
Under Senegal’s election code, at least 80 days must pass between publication of the decree setting the date and the election, so the earliest a vote could now be held is late April.
Opposition rejects postponement
Presidential candidates said they would launch their campaigns on Sunday in defiance of the official postponement.
The RFM opposition party said it “systematically” rejects the postponement.
“We will see all Senegalese people this Sunday for a march,” said party spokesperson Cheikh Tidiane Youm.
Habib Sy, one of the 20 candidates, said opposition parties had met and agreed to launch their election campaigns together.
Another opposition figure, former mayor of Dakar Khalifa Sall, called for pro-democratic forces to unite.
“All of Senegal must stand up,” he told journalists.
Sall, who is not related to the president, denounced “a constitutional coup” by a leader who “dreams of eternity”.
The United States, the European Union and France led appeals for the vote to be rescheduled at the earliest date.
The EU called for a prompt, transparent, inclusive and credible election, with spokesperson Nabila Massrali noting the delay “opens a period of uncertainty”.
In Paris, the foreign ministry urged authorities to “end the uncertainty… so the vote can be held as soon as possible”.
The US State Department also called on Senegal to set a date for a “timely, free and fair election” in a post on X, formerly Twitter.
The West African bloc ECOWAS expressed “concern” and called for dialogue, in a post on X.