Stacking the Deck

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Senegal’s leading opposition figure, Ousmane Sonko, is unlikely to be able to run in next month’s presidential elections following a decision by the country’s Supreme Court to uphold a defamation conviction against him, and one by the Constitutional Council rejecting his candidacy, Al Jazeera reported Friday.

Sonko’s lawyer, Cire Cledor Ly, said the council rejected his candidacy on the grounds that it was incomplete. Ly called the decision an “electoral farce” and plans to appeal it.

The rejection came shortly after Senegal’s top court upheld a conviction dating from May against the opposition figure, who received a six-month suspended sentence for defamation after being sued by a government minister.

Under Senegalese law, the conviction disqualifies his candidacy in the Feb. 25 elections.

Regardless, the opposition leader remains a popular figure among the country’s youth, and his supporters say that legal actions against him are politically motivated.

Meanwhile, the government had already dissolved Sonko’s Patriots of Senegal Party, or PASTEF, in July, accusing him of inciting violence, a charge the opposition leader denies.

Sonko’s legal troubles began in 2021 when he was accused of rape, leading to widespread unrest across the West African country. Last June, a court found him guilty of morally corrupting a young person and sentenced him to two years in prison, according to Agence France-Presse.

In December, a court in the southern city of Zinguichor – where Sonko is mayor – ordered that he should be reinstated onto the electoral register.

The electoral commission is reviewing applications, with a final list of cleared presidential candidates expected by Jan. 20.

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