The Growing Tarnish
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Senegalese President Macky Sall indefinitely postponed the country’s elections scheduled for Feb. 25 over the weekend, a decision that raised serious questions about the state of democracy in one of West Africa’s most stable nations, the Washington Post reported.
On Saturday, the president said the delay came because of disputes over which candidates were able to run in this month’s elections.
His announcement comes after a number of prominent contenders were disqualified from running by the country’s courts. Among them is popular opposition figure Ousmane Sonko, who faced a series of charges that critics said were politically motivated.
In June, deadly protests killed more than a dozen people in the country after a court sentenced Sonko to two years in prison for “corrupting youth,” according to CNBC.
While Sall reiterated that he would not seek a third term, critics countered that the election postponement undermines the democratic principles enshrined in Senegal’s constitution.
Some opposition politicians criticized the unprecedented move as an “institutional coup d’état.”
Analysts suggested that the postponement may be driven by concerns among the political elite that Bassirou Diomaye Faye, the candidate selected by Sonko last month to run as his replacement, could pose a significant challenge in the elections.
Sonko’s popularity has surged in recent years, fueled by his outspoken criticism of Senegal’s political establishment and the country’s close ties with France.
Some observers noted that Sall’s decision has put into question Senegal’s reputation as a beacon of democracy in a region that has been marked by military coups.
Since gaining independence from France in 1960, Senegal has experienced four peaceful transitions of power without any military takeovers.
This stands in stark contrast to neighboring countries such as Niger and Gabon, where military coups have occurred in recent years. Meanwhile, Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea are currently ruled by military juntas after recent coups.