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Senegal president set for TV interview after weeks of turmoil

By Stéphane BARBIER
Senegal Senegalese voters are waiting to hear when they will vote for a president after a controversial delay.  By John Wessels AFPFile
FEB 22, 2024 LISTEN
Senegalese voters are waiting to hear when they will vote for a president after a controversial delay. By John Wessels (AFP/File)

Senegal's outgoing President Macky Sall is to address the nation Thursday in a live TV interview, which could reveal a date for elections after their unprecedented delay triggered weeks of crisis.

Sall faces a growing clamour to set the vote after he abruptly called off the February 25 presidential election with just three weeks to go.

Under pressure at home and abroad to call the ballot as soon as possible, he will take part in a televised interview with three media organisations at 7:00 pm (1900 GMT), the presidency said.

Sall announced the delay hours before official campaigning was due to begin, with parliament backing the move despite strong opposition and setting a new election date for mid-December.

The opposition denounced Sall's move as a "constitutional coup", saying his party feared defeat at the ballot box.

The delay plunged the traditionally stable West African country into its worst political crisis in decades and sparked unrest that has left four people dead.

Adding to the uncertainty, the top constitutional body last week overturned the delay and called for the vote to be organised "as soon as possible".

President Macky Sall came to power in 2012 and his term is to end on April 2.  By Amanuel Sileshi AFPFile President Macky Sall came to power in 2012 and his term is to end on April 2. By Amanuel Sileshi (AFP/File)

Sall, whose second term runs out on April 2, responded that he would "without delay carry out the consultations necessary" to do so.

No information has officially been released since then about any discussions.

But the president called during Wednesday's cabinet meeting for "all the arrangements" to be made "for the presidential election to be organised well on a date which will be set very soon", according to the presidency.

It added that this would be "after consultations with politicians, civil society officials and representatives of key actors".

'Dialogue'

Sall also said he wanted "dialogue" to calm tensions and asked the justice minister to complete texts "to achieve the will for reconciliation and forgiveness".

Hundreds of detained opposition and civil society members were released last week.

However, civil society groups have called another rally for Saturday in the capital Dakar to keep up the pressure, after mobilising several thousand people last weekend.

Protesters took to the streets over the election delay.  By JOHN WESSELS AFPFile Protesters took to the streets over the election delay. By JOHN WESSELS (AFP/File)

Imprisoned opposition candidate Bassirou Diomaye Diakhar Faye, who is among 19 contenders for the presidency, on Wednesday accused Sall of dragging his feet.

His criticism echoed that of most of the other candidates who accused Sall in a joint statement of "ill will".

Faye said in a statement that he would only agree to talks on setting an election date "without delay" and before the end of Sall's term.

Sall, who has been in power since 2012, said he called off the vote over disputes about the disqualification of potential candidates and concern about a return to unrest seen in 2021 and last year.

The opposition accuses him of trying to remain in office, though Sall has repeatedly said he will not stand for a third term.

The coalition supporting the candidate of the president's party, Prime Minister Amadou Ba, called on its leaders Wednesday to mobilise voters for a first-round win regardless of when the vote is held.

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