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Senegal’s presidential candidate list excludes opposition leader Sonko

In World
January 21, 2024

Senegal’s Constitutional Council on Saturday published a final list of 20 candidates for the February 25 presidential election that excludes jailed opposition leader Ousmane Sonko and Karim Wade, the son of former president Abdoulaye Wade.

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Those listed include Prime Minister Amadou Ba, chosen by President Macky Sall as his successor after Sall announced in July that he would not seek a third term.

Also named were former prime ministers and rivals Idrissa Seck and Mahammed Boun Abdallah Dionne, the ex-mayor of Dakar Khalifa Sall and Bassirou Diomaye Diakhar Faye, presented as a substitute candidate for Sonko.

Faye, 43, a member of Sonko’s dissolved party, is also detained but has not yet been tried.

He has been in prison since April 2023 for “contempt of court” and “defamation against a corporate body” over a Facebook post.

Sonkyo, who came third in the 2019 presidential election, has been at the centre of a bitter stand-off with the state that has lasted more than two years and sparked often deadly unrest.

The 49-year-old opposition figure has generated a passionate following among Senegal‘s disaffected youth, striking a chord with his pan-Africanist rhetoric and tough stance on former colonial power France.

The Constitutional Council rejected Sonko’s candidacy due to his six-month suspended sentence for defamation, which was upheld by the Supreme Court on January 4.

He had also been handed a hefty fine for defamation and insults against Tourism Minister Mame Mbaye Niang.

Crowded field

In other legal cases, Sonko was sentenced in June to two years’ imprisonment for morally corrupting a young person and has been jailed since the end of July on other charges, including calling for insurrection, conspiracy with terrorist groups, and endangering state security.

He has denied the charges, saying they are intended to prevent him from running in February’s election, which the government rejects.

The published list of candidates also includes two women, gynaecologist Rose Wardini and entrepreneur Anta Babacar Ngom.

It is the first time Senegal has organised a presidential election with so many candidates, constitutional lawyer Babacar Gueye told AFP. There were five candidates during the previous contest in 2019.

Karim Wade, who served as a minister when his father was in power, was excluded as his candidacy was deemed “inadmissible” because of his dual French and Senegalese nationality, according to the Constitutional Council.

According to the constitution, presidential candidates “must be exclusively of Senegalese nationality” and aged between 35 and 75 on election day.

Wade, who was born in France to a Senegalese father and a mother of French origin, had presented documents showing he had renounced his French nationality.

But the council rejected them, saying the decree confirming his loss of French nationality was “not retroactive” and his sworn declaration was “inexact” at the time of its filing.

With just a month to go, there is total uncertainly as the outcome of the two-round election, Senegal’s first without the participation of the outgoing president.

Sall, elected as president in 2012 for seven years and re-elected in 2019, declared in July that he would not stand again.

(AFP)

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