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Senegal’s president defends delaying elections in unique interview as protests erupt nationwide

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DAKAR, Senegal — Senegalese President Macky Sall defended his choice to postpone elections as violent protests erupted throughout the nation on Friday.

In his first interview since saying the delay, Sall dismissed allegations that the choice was unconstitutional and that he’d created a constitutional disaster, saying the nation wanted extra time to resolve controversies over the disqualification of some candidates and a battle between the legislative and judicial branches of presidency.

However a lot of the general public fears that Sall, who faces time period limits, is simply in search of to delay leaving workplace.

Senegal is one in all West Africa’s most steady democracies, however the presidential vote has been dogged by controversies from lethal protests that resulted in Sall saying that he wouldn’t search a 3rd time period, to the disqualification of two opposition leaders by the best election authority.

Sall denied that he is making an attempt to carry on to energy. “I’m completely in search of for nothing besides to depart a rustic in peace and stability,” mentioned Sall. “I’m utterly able to cross the baton. I’ve all the time been programmed for that.”

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Sall spoke to the AP contained in the presidential palace within the capital, Dakar, whereas outdoors, a whole bunch of protestors took to the streets, burning tires, throwing stones and blocking visitors as safety forces used tear gasoline to disperse them. Not less than one scholar was killed on a college campus following demonstrations within the nation’s northern metropolis of Saint Louis, in response to a press release from the general public prosecutor.

“Our future is at stake, we’ve to struggle,” mentioned Mohamed Sene, a protestor in Dakar.

Sall, who got here to energy in 2012 and is ready to complete his two phrases on April 2, postponed elections scheduled for Feb. 25 simply as campaigning was set to start.

Sall’s bid to delay the election got here amid tensions over who was allowed to run. The Constitutional Council, the best election authority, blocked a serious social gathering candidate as a result of he held twin citizenship with France on the time he filed to run. Karim Wade, the son of a former president and candidate for the Senegalese Democratic Celebration, accused two Council members of corruption and appealed to parliament to delay the election.

Sall mentioned his choice to intervene was crucial to stop worse electoral chaos.

“I don’t wish to go away behind a rustic that may instantly plunge into main difficulties,” mentioned Sall. “I’m saying now that I’m going to work for appeasement, for situations that may permit the nation to be peaceable … let’s all maintain inclusive discussions earlier than we go to elections,” he mentioned.

Senegal’s parliament voted Monday to delay the election till Dec. 15 in a chaotic course of that happened after opposition lawmakers had been forcefully faraway from the chambers.

The structure empowers the Constitutional Council to reschedule the vote in sure circumstances together with “the dying, everlasting incapacity or withdrawal” of candidates. However parliament’s makes an attempt to vary the laws violates some clauses of the present structure, in response to the Africa Heart for Strategic Research.

Earlier this week, greater than a dozen opposition candidates filed an enchantment with the supreme court docket to overturn the decree.

The Constitutional Council is predicted to rule inside roughly every week as as to whether it agrees with the parliament’s conclusion. Nonetheless, when pressed, Sall would not say whether or not he would settle for the court docket’s choice if it rejected the delay.

“It’s too early for me to think about this prospect … When the choice is made, I will say what I’ll do,” he mentioned.

Conflicts analysts say the postponement of the election in a rustic that was seen as a beacon of democratic stability is prone to speed up democratic decline in West Africa, a area tormented by coups and insecurity.

“The present development threatens to tarnish Senegal’s fame and dangers enabling anti-democratic practices by elected leaders in different West African international locations,” mentioned Mucahid Durmaz, a senior analyst at international threat consultancy Verisk Maplecroft.

Senegalese religion in democracy has considerably declined below Sall, with greater than half of residents saying their nation is much less democratic now than it was 5 years in the past, in response to Afrobarometer, an impartial survey analysis community. Rights teams accuse authorities of repressing the media, civil society and the opposition. Human Rights Watch mentioned almost 1,000 opposition members and activists have been arrested throughout the nation within the final three years.

Two specialists on the U.S. Institutes of Peace wrote that Sall was chargeable for the disaster he cited to delay the election, calling them “disputes that his administration, and a presidentially appointed constitutional council, have largely created by barring distinguished opposition figures or their events from the electoral course of.”

A number of opposition members, together with Sall’s strongest opponent, Ousmane Sonko, have been imprisoned.

Sonko’s candidacy was additionally rejected, on account of a conviction by the Supreme Courtroom for defamation in opposition to a minister. Sonko’s supporters keep his authorized troubles had been a part of a authorities effort to derail his candidacy for this 12 months’s elections.

On Friday, Sall referred to as on the worldwide neighborhood to indicate restraint and understanding whereas Senegal was going via a difficult time. He mentioned the trail ahead contains launching a nationwide dialogue, which may start as early as subsequent week. The aim is to foster belief and create an inclusive atmosphere for elections, he mentioned.

“In periods of fragility, we’ve to watch out … The nation should navigate this stage of electoral transition with full lucidity and tranquility, in order that the nation continues to maneuver ahead,” mentioned Sall.

However a Senegal knowledgeable mentioned the one manner out of the present disaster is for the federal government to launch opposition candidates from jail, for Sall to finish his tenure on time and for the Constitutional Council to annul the decree.

“Senegal is in actual hazard of plunging into violence and chaos,” mentioned Alioune Tine, founding father of Afrikajom Heart, a West African suppose tank. “It’s a residents’ revolution in opposition to dictatorship and there’s no finish in sight,” he mentioned.


Related Press reporter Babacar Dione contributed from Dakar.

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