Senegalese riot police lobs tear gas at supporters of opposition presidential candidate Daouda Ndiaye, in Dakar, Senegal, Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024. (AP Photo/Stefan Kleinowitz)

Senegal police fire tear gas as the opposition protests at election delay

DAKAR, SENEGAL – Senegal’s police on Sunday fired tear gas at opposition supporters who were protesting against the decision by President Macky Sall to postpone the Feb. 25 election over a dispute between parliament and the judiciary.

The protesters were staging a rally in the capital of Dakar after leading opposition leaders and candidates in the presidential election rejected Saturday’s postponement. The opposition leaders had called on citizens to “defend” democracy amid a push for dialogue by West Africa’s regional bloc known as ECOWAS.

Analysts say the crisis is putting one of Africa’s most stable democracies to the test at a time when the region is struggling with a recent surge in coups. Senegal has been embroiled in political tensions as a result of deadly clashes involving opposition supporters and the disqualification of two opposition leaders ahead of the crucial vote.

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Several opposition figures rejected Sall’s decision to postpone the presidential election, with at least two of the 20 candidates saying they would proceed with their campaign scheduled to kick off on Sunday.

Sall’s tenure is scheduled to end on April 2. Senegal’s electoral code requires 80 days’ notice of an election, meaning the earliest a new vote could take place is the last week of April.

“I am launching my electoral campaign tomorrow, in Dakar, with the candidates who have chosen to defend the Constitution,” former minister and opposition candidate Thierno Alassane Sall said Saturday in a post on social media platform X.

Former mayor of the capital of Dakar Khalifa Sall also asked the citizens to “come together to save our democracy” while another opposition candidate, Dethie Fall, said, “We will start our campaign and we call on all candidates to do the same.”

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