Dangerous turn of Senegal's democracy

Senegal is at a dangerous political juncture, which has left the country's political future open to all options, including sharp confrontations within the country, which could lead to the use of excessive force, which is part of the country's long-standing and Could destroy the cherished democratic experience. , which has been immune from unrest since independence. Major political events occurring in the West African region, which has reached the stage of devastating civil wars in some of its countries.

By the morning of 3 February, things were going peacefully, as the Electoral Commission announced the names of the twenty candidates who met the conditions to run for President of the Republic. After reviewing the list of candidates, everyone was convinced that the current President, Macky Sall, kept his promise and did not participate out of respect for the Constitution, which limits the presidential term to only two terms.

In the face of an angry street revolution, when the ruling party announced that President Macky Sall would run for a third term, and there was talk of a constitutional amendment being approved by the ruling party-controlled parliament, President Sall was forced to address the nation. Fell. , insisting that he would abide by the Constitution and would not run again.

Campaigning officially began on 1 February, with the election expected to end on the scheduled voting day of 25 February. Although major parties, including the Senegalese Democratic Party, objected to the exclusion of their candidates from the contest, they followed legal means and lodged their complaints with the competent courts specified by the Senegalese Constitution.

But everything suddenly changed on 3 February, when outgoing Senegalese President Macky Sall gave a speech to the Senegalese nation in which he announced that he had decided to postpone the presidential elections, scheduled for 25 February, to a later date and Announced it. He will present his decision in Parliament for consideration. He will then call for a broader national dialogue on the future of Senegal's ancient democratic experience.

President Sall concluded his speech by reaffirming what he had previously announced and committing that he would not personally participate in the upcoming elections in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.

The news might have been normal in any other African country suffering from single-party hegemony or the military's repeated encroachments on democracy, but it was a major blow to public opinion in Senegal, a country that has seen no military leaders since its tenure. Have not seen a coup. Independence political history. Not only this, but peaceful democratic practice has become the only means accepted by the people for peaceful transfer of power in the country.

Democracy in Senegal has clearly strengthened over the past quarter century, the electoral process has become largely transparent and fair, and all parties have committed to accepting the election results whatever they may be.

The contemporary political history of Senegal bears witness to the fact that former President Abdou Diouf, who ruled the country for twenty years, accepted his defeat in the presidential elections in 2000 against his historical rival Abdoulaye Wade and called . congratulated him, which surprised many African leaders. In 2012, President Abdullah Wade accepted, but with great bitterness, his defeat in the second round of the elections and called his student and rival, current President Macky Sall, to congratulate him on his victory.

Last year, there were serious demonstrations in the country when the ruling party announced that President Macky Sall would run for a third term. There was talk of a constitutional amendment approved by Parliament, which is controlled by the ruling party. Following an angry street revolt, President Sall was forced to address the nation, insisting that he would abide by the constitution and would not seek re-election.

Perhaps for this reason, President Macky Sall, in his speech to the nation in which he announced the postponement of the election date, confirmed that he would not run for a third term, lest the streets rebel against him again. yes.

This is a country in which democratic practices are deeply rooted, and the citizen knows that his electoral vote is not just a piece of paper which he puts in the ballot box, but that his vote carries weight and weight, and With this he can change the direction of politics in his country. Therefore, when presidents or members of parliament do not fulfill their election promises, citizens confidently shout at them: You will return to us in five years, and I will not give you my vote.

effect of decision

President Sall and the ruling party attributed the motives for the adjournment decision to the heated dispute between Parliament and the Electoral Commission, as Parliament accused two of the Commission's judges of lack of integrity, and the Commission's lack of respect for credibility and provisions. But raised questions. of the Constitution regarding the conditions of candidature.

The President submitted his decision to Parliament, which held an emergency session to discuss the decision. Representatives of the opposition parties refused to discuss the issue on principle and blocked the voting, forcing the Speaker of Parliament to forcefully remove the opposition representatives from the session.

Voting took place and the members approved with a comfortable majority the decision to postpone the presidential elections from February 25 to December 15, 2024. In order to prevent the country from entering a constitutional vacuum with the expiration of the current President's term on April 2, Parliament decided to extend the President's term. Macky Sall until the end of the presidential election and until the president-elect takes power later this year.

Representatives of the ruling party and the Senegalese Democratic Party, who had previously objected to the electoral commission's decision to reject the file of the party's candidate, Karim Wade, son of former President Abdoulaye Wade, voted in favor of the decision and demanded That the election program be amended.

in the eye of the storm

After Parliament decided to postpone the elections until December and extend President Sall's term in office by almost a year, which the opposition sees as a clear violation of the Senegalese Constitution, the opposition and Senegalese street will proceed on two levels:

– The legal level at which consideration will be given by the Constitutional Court and the competent judicial bodies.

The level of political and mobilization is most important, which is organizing a large mass movement. Senegal's streets have begun to organize, and hopefully this will follow suit.

Important questions have been raised about the reasons that led to President Sall's sudden decision to halt the electoral process after it had officially begun and many analysts believe that the main reason behind this was the ruling regarding the expected election. It was an assessment made by the team. The results, and it was confirmed that its candidate for the election, not the current Prime Minister, Ahmadu Bahá, had a very high chance of winning.

In fact, there was no consensus among senior leaders of the ruling party on the nomination of Ahmadu Bah, but President Sall imposed it on the party. This is because the candidate, Ahmadou Bah, is relatively new to the scene of Senegalese politics, as he only formally entered it in 2013 when President Sall appointed him Finance Minister, before rising to the post of Prime Minister. Emerged as Foreign Minister. In 2022. He is not even one of the founders of the ruling party, and does not have public support. Which is enjoyed by other members of the party's founders.

In confirmation of this, a trend recently emerged, led by several senior leaders of the ruling party, calling for the replacement of the party's candidate with the help of President Sall's wife. Stopping the electoral process would enable the ruling party to change its presidential candidate later.

As for the opposition, it believes that halting the electoral process and extending it for more than ten months is a ploy by current President Macky Sall to continue ruling in violation of the Constitution, and that at some point he Can present a fabricated constitutional interpretation. Which allows him to run for a third term.

This logic is very acceptable on the rough streets of Senegal. Since President Sall remained silent throughout the past year about his desire to amend the constitution and run for a third term, he was finally forced – perhaps under duress – to make the announcement following noisy demonstrations in the capital Dakar. In, as the opposition says – he will respect the Constitution and will not run away.

tough choices

It appears that the decision to change the date of the presidential elections and extend the term of President Macky Sall will plunge Senegal into a period of serious political turmoil, threatening the peaceful democratic process that the country has known since independence from France in 1960 Is.

The opposition will launch a massive campaign against parliament's decisions, and cases are expected to escalate, culminating on April 2, 2024, the last day specified by the constitution for the end of President Macky Sall's term.

A large number of opposition leaders, opinion leaders, academics and civil society leaders have said that they will not recognize President Macky Sall as president after April 2. This means that the country is practically entering a constitutional vacuum, which could lead to anarchy.

Several jurists suggested that the Speaker of Parliament assume power on 2 April; to prevent any chaos in the country, while many opposition leaders said they would declare open civil disobedience on April 2, and would not recognize President Macky Sall as head of state under any circumstances.

In a democratic country where there is tremendous tension on the political streets against the ruling party, these statements are extremely dangerous. We saw this in the violent youth protests in the capital Dakar in 2021, when the court brought malicious charges against youth opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, which left several people dead, forcing the court to release him. , We also saw it in the massive demonstrations that ultimately forced President Sall to announce that he would not amend the Constitution and would not run for a third term.

But the most dangerous thing is that the state of anarchy and constitutional vacuum will – God forbid – lead some adventurous army officers to overthrow the ancient democratic experiment in Senegal, as their brothers did earlier in Guinea, Burkina Faso and Mali. Was, and not too far from what happened recently in Niger.

The ancient Senegalese democracy is passing through a dangerous turn, and to survive this ordeal, and to maintain its position as a model of hope in the deep darkness of coups in Africa, it needs the support of rational and intelligent people. needed. ,

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