Senegal president to go on live TV after weeks of turmoilThu, 22 Feb 2024 17:48:29 GMT

Senegal’s outgoing President Macky Sall was to appear live on national television on Thursday evening and could reveal his plans for elections after their unprecedented delay triggered weeks of crisis.Sall faces a growing clamour to set a date for 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.”The only thing the Senegalese expect from President Macky Sall speaking today is for him to unequivocally announce the date of the presidential election,” ex-prime minister Aminata Toure said on X, formerly Twitter.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”.  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 ministry to finish drawing up draft legislation to follow through on “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.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 he would only agree to talks on setting an election date “without delay” and before the end of Sall’s term.Faye is deputy to anti-establishment firebrand Ousmane Sonko, who is also in prison. The national youth coordinator for Sonko’s dissolved political party, Ngagne Demba Toure, was imprisoned on Thursday after being arrested a day earlier, according to one of his lawyers Moussa Sarr.Sarr said his client had been charged with “criminal association in connection with a terrorist undertaking”, “attacks and plots in connection with a terrorist undertaking” and “offence to the head of state”.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.The recent political turmoil prompted concern from Senegal’s international partners.The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said Thursday it hoped for a “speedy resolution and to ensure continued stability and economic progress in the country”.