Senegal: One dead, many injured in protests over election postponement

Senegal’s postponed election sparks deadly protests and threatens democracy in the once most stable democracy of West Africa.

The postponement of presidential elections in Senegal has triggered violent protests across the nation, with one death reported.

A student lost his life in a confrontation with police on Friday in Saint-Louis, a northern city, according to an opposition leader and a hospital source.

In Dakar, the capital, the crowds were dispersed by security forces using tear gas and stun grenades.

The elections, which were scheduled for 25 February, were pushed back by MPs to 15 December last week.

President Macky Sall had previously cancelled the polls indefinitely, saying it was necessary to settle a dispute over the eligibility of presidential candidates.

Sall’s term was later extended by 10 months by lawmakers.

The opponents of this decision have cautioned that Senegal’s image as a stronghold of democracy in a volatile region of West Africa is at stake.

Khalifa Sall, an opposition leader who is not related to the president, had earlier denounced the election delay as a “constitutional coup”.

Khalifa Sall announced the death of the student in Saint-Louis on social media.

He said: “This outbreak of violence caused by the unjustified suspension of the electoral process makes all democrats’ hearts bleed.”

The death was verified by a hospital source who spoke anonymously, and by a university official where the student studied, as per the AFP news agency.

The Senegalese authorities have not made any public statement on the matter.

The protests started last weekend on a large scale. On Friday, protesters in Dakar clashed with security forces, hurling stones and setting tyres on fire.

President Sall has stated that he does not intend to run for office again – but his detractors accuse him of either trying to hold on to power or manipulating the succession process.

Twenty candidates were on the final list to compete in the elections, but several others were ruled out by the Constitutional Council, the judicial body that checks whether candidates meet the requirements to run.

Ecowas, the regional bloc of West Africa, urged Senegal’s political class on Tuesday to “urgently take steps to restore the electoral calendar” in accordance with the constitution.

Senegal has long been regarded as one of the most stable democracies in West Africa. It is the only country in mainland West Africa that has never experienced a military coup.

It has had three peaceful transfers of power and never postponed a presidential election.

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