Senegal talks rule out presidential vote before Sall’s term expiresTue, 27 Feb 2024 19:55:00 GMT

Political crisis talks called by Senegal’s President Macky Sall on Tuesday reached a “broad consensus” that the presidential vote he postponed could not be held before his mandate ends on April 2, multiple participants told AFP.Sall’s two-day “national dialogue” aimed at setting a date for the delayed election also advocated the head of state remain in office beyond the end of his term and until his successor is installed. The conclusions go firmly against the view of a widespread political and civic movement, which is demanding the poll be held before April 2.The traditionally stable West African country is grappling with its worst political crisis in decades after Sall’s last-minute deferral of the February 25 election.The Constitutional Council overturned the delay and Sall on Monday launched two days of talks to set a new date — boycotted by major political and social actors.Two committees were formed to discuss the election date and the organisation of the period after April 2.The first committee came to the almost unanimous conclusion that the vote could not be held before April 2, four participants told AFP.Two participants, Amar Thioune and Mamadou Lamine Mane, even said there was a “broad consensus” that the presidential election could not be held before June 2.The second committee came to a “broad consensus” in favour of President Sall remaining in office until a successor is sworn in, six participants told AFP on condition of anonymity. Some taking part in the talks proposed the vote should take place in July, the same sources told AFP, referring to discussions rather than any written document. The two committees were due to present their conclusions to the president late Tuesday.No indication was given as to when Sall would then make a decision.Last week, he said he would set a date “immediately” if there was a consensus. – ‘Get it over with’ -The president has previously cast doubt on the feasibility of staging the vote before the end of his term.On Monday, he proposed that it could be held by the start of the rainy season in June or July. Sall had reiterated several times in recent days that his mandate would end as planned at the beginning of April.But on Monday, he left open the possibility of an extension. “If there’s a consensus, I’m prepared, in the best interests of the nation, to take it upon myself to stay on even if it’s not my choice,” he said. “It’s not what I want because I’m in a hurry to get it over with and leave,” he added.The February 3 decision to postpone the presidential election plunged Senegal into turmoil, with four people killed in  clashes.Sall, in power since 2012, said he called off the vote over disputes about the disqualification of potential candidates and fears of a return to unrest as in 2021 and 2023.The opposition called it a “constitutional coup”.The Constitutional Council, the top constitutional body, ruled the delay unlawful and called for the vote to be organised “as soon as possible”.A possible extension of Sall’s term is likely to raise more constitutional concerns. The Council said on February 15 that Mr Sall was due to leave office on April 2.- Boycott -The movement galvanised against the election delay says the president is playing for time, either to benefit his political allies or to remain in power.Seventeen of the 19 candidates approved by the Constitutional Council to stand in the presidential poll boycotted Sall’s national dialogue, as did the major civil society collective Aar Sunu Election (Protect Our Election).The collective had called for  shutdowns across the country and a general strike on Tuesday, demanding the poll take place before Sall leaves office.But the call appeared to go largely unheeded in central districts of the capital Dakar.”We live from day to day, so we can’t afford to go a day without working, otherwise our families won’t eat,” said shopkeeper Saer Dieng, 37.