Senegal’s President Macky Sall on Saturday announced the indefinite postponement of a presidential election scheduled for February 25, provoking anger from opposition figures and a ministerial resignation.
The presidential decree postponing the vote, which would have decided his successor, came just hours before official campaigning was due to start.
In an address to the nation, Sall said he had made the decision 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 has been questioned.
“I will begin an open national dialogue to bring together the conditions for a free, transparent and inclusive election,” Sall added, without giving a new date.
Under the country’s election code, at least 80 days must pass between the publication of the decree and the election, so the earliest it could now be held is late April.
Just hours after Sall’s announcement, Abdou Latif Coulibaly, the Secretary General of the government who has acted as its spokesman, announced his resignation.
He was quitting because he wanted to have “full and complete freedom” to defend his political convictions, Coulibaly said in a statement.
This is the first time a Senegalese presidential election has been postponed and adds to the growing political tension in the country.
A November 2023 decree signed by Sall had set the election for February 25, with 20 candidates in the running but two major opposition figures excluded.
Sall reiterated Saturday that he would not be a candidate.
But one opposition leader, Thierno Alassane Sall, denounced what he called “high treason towards the Republic” in a post on X, formerly Twitter. He called on “patriots and republicans” to oppose it.
El Malick Ndiaye, former spokesman of the now-disbanded opposition party once led by the now jailed Ousmane Sonko, also denounced the decision.
“This is not a delay of the election, but a cancellation pure and simple,” he wrote on Facebook.
And another opposition figure, former mayor of Dakar Khalifa Sall, called for pro-democratic forces to unite against the decision.
“All of Senegal must stand up,” he told journalists.
“All democratic political forces and civil society should unite so that this project does not succeed.”
After announcing he would not run for a third term as president, Sall designated Prime Minister Amadou Ba from his party as his would-be successor.
But with his party split over his candidacy, Ba faced possible defeat in the elections.
The Constitutional Council has excluded dozens of candidates from the vote, including Sonko, who has been jailed since July 2023, and Karim Wade, son of former president Abdoulaye Wade.
Wade’s supporters in the National Assembly called for a parliamentary inquiry into the partiality of two judges on the Constitutional Court.
That motion was passed by the Assembly on January 31, with some members of Sall’s party supporting it.
Wade had been barred from running because he allegedly also holds French citizenship, a decision he denounced as “scandalous”.
On Friday, Rose Wardini, one of only two women in the approved list of candidates, was detained accused of having concealed her French citizenship, according to judicial sources.