Police made arrests and fired tear gas as opposition supporters protested President Macky Sall’s decision to postpone elections in Senegal.
Clashes erupted on Sunday as federal lawmakers prepared to debate a bill to formalise the delay of the February 25 vote.
Demonstrators rallied in the capital Dakar after leading opposition figures and candidates in the presidential election rejected Saturday’s announcement and called on citizens to defend democracy.
Meanwhile, ECOWAS, West Africa’s regional bloc, called for dialogue.
Among those arrested as the protests spread was former Prime Minister Aminata Toure, as well as Anta Babacar Ngom, one of the candidates in the postponed vote.
The government cut the signal of private television channel Walf as it broadcast the protest live. The New York-based non-profit Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the move in a post on social media platform X, urging Senegalese authorities to ensure that “journalists can work without hindrance”.
Ahead of the postponement, Senegal had already been embroiled in political tension as the disqualification of two opposition candidates had triggered deadly clashes.
Sall’s call to delay the vote cited a dispute between the judiciary and parliament over the final list of candidates. At least two of the 20 candidates said they would proceed with their campaign scheduled to kick off on Sunday.
Sall’s tenure is scheduled to end on April 2. However, Senegal’s electoral code requires 80 days’ notice for a ballot, suggesting that the earliest that a vote could now take place is the last week of April.
Repealing the decree that had set the electoral process in motion, Sall cited the dispute between the judiciary and federal lawmakers over the disqualification process and the reported dual nationality of some of the qualified candidates. Opposition leaders argue that the Senegalese leader lacks the power to delay the vote.
Sall’s announcement followed a request to postpone the vote by the opposition Senegalese Democratic Party, whose candidate Karim Wade had been disqualified.
Wade has accused two judges of corruption in the disqualification process and said that postponing the vote would “make it possible to repair the damage suffered”.
The constitution empowers the Constitutional Council, Senegal’s highest election authority, to reschedule the election in certain circumstances including in the case of “the death, permanent incapacity or withdrawal” of candidates.