On February 3, Senegal's presidential elections, scheduled for February 25, were canceled for the first time in the country's history.
President Macky Sal announced his decision on February 3 in a televised address to the nation, promising to hold national consultations to develop conditions for a fair and transparent vote. Despite the protests that broke out the next day, on February 6, the “constitutional coup” (as the opposition dubbed it) was legitimized at a scandalous parliamentary meeting by a “majority” of 104 votes loyal to the president, immediately after the protesting opposition deputies were removed from the meeting room by the gendarmerie. The remaining deputies voted to move the date to December 15.
The initiative to postpone the elections was made by the Senegalese Democratic Party of politician Karim Wade, who initially proposed extending Sall's mandate, which expires on April 2, until August 25 in order to investigate and eliminate violations of the electoral process. The main reason was the “mess” over the registration of presidential candidates. The day before, the Constitutional Council approved 20 candidates, including Maki Sal's protégé, Prime Minister Amadou Ba, but for one reason or another rejected the dossier of 40 politicians, including two prominent oppositionists - Ousmane Sonko and Karim Wada himself. The first was disqualified for a scandalous criminal case, the second for having a second (French) citizenship. On the other hand, gynecologist Rose Vardini, who has French citizenship, and at least three other politicians with passports of other countries were allowed to participate in the elections, so Karim Wade accused two members of the Council of bias, including collusion with Amadou Ba.
Back on July 3, Maki Sal broke his long silence and announced his reluctance to run for a third term - and repeated the promise on February 3. However, he still hasn’t decided on the key ingredient for the transition of power—a successor—which is sensitive for Sal: by sending a number of prominent politicians and officials to jail, he wants to protect himself from possible prosecution by future authorities.
The most obvious choice was Amadou Ba. But his figure did not seem optimal even to members of the president’s inner circle and caused a split in the ranks of the presidential majority, especially since there was little time left to “promote” a successor.
Therefore, Sal simultaneously became close to Karim Wade, whom he had recently “forgiven,” who had been living in exile in Qatar since 2016 after serving three years in prison for corruption. The son of ex-president Abdoulaye Wada does not have the experience and authority of his father, but behind him is the support of influential murids who are extremely favorable to the children of the ex-president.
However, since 2019, Karim Wada’s headquarters has not bothered to publish evidence that the politician does not have a foreign passport, and the publication on January 16 in the French “Journal of Office” of the decree on Wada’s renunciation of French citizenship followed too late - he submitted his application to participate in the elections before the 26 December, when he was still a French citizen.
The Council's decision likely took most members of the presidential majority, including Sahl himself, by surprise. The unexpected registration for the election of PASTEF nominee Basiru Jomaya Faye, an ally of Ousmane Sonko, who has also been under arrest since April 2023, jeopardized Sala’s fragile combinations, vulnerable to a “protest” vote for Sonko’s ally and especially without the support of Wada’s half-million electorate and the murids behind him. In view of all these unfavorable circumstances for the president, rumors of a postponement began to spread almost immediately after January 20 and only intensified on January 31, when a parliamentary commission of inquiry was created.
Nevertheless, the president hesitated when making a decision - on January 26, at a meeting with the coalition, Sahl declared his commitment to the deadlines established by law. Needless to say, the decision caused sharp rejection among part of the opposition, who compared Sahl’s behavior to the putschists, and the scale of the constitutional crisis has yet to be assessed.