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Ecowas tells Senegal to hold elections this month

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Authorities in Senegal should hold the presidential election this month as scheduled instead of delaying it by 10 months, West Africa’s regional bloc said yesterday.

President Macky Sall postponed the February 25 vote, citing an electoral dispute between the parliament and the judiciary regarding some candidacies. Opposition leaders and candidates rejected the decision, calling it a “coup.”

Several opposition lawmakers were blocked from voting on Monday as parliament rescheduled the election for December, prompting outrage and condemnation. Sall’s time in office had been set to end on April 2.

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“We are disappointed in my country,” said Moustapha Kane, a teacher in the capital, Dakar, as the unrest of past days appeared to calm. “We used to be a great democracy. Now we are in danger of being the laughingstock of other countries.”

The vote has been surrounded by months of controversies, from deadly clashes that resulted in Sall announcing that he would not seek a third term to the disqualification of two opposition leaders by the highest election authority.

Meanwhile, the US said the vote to delay the election until December “cannot be considered legitimate”.

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The reaction is the most critical to date from one of Senegal’s major international allies.

“The United States is deeply concerned by actions taken to delay Senegal’s February 25 presidential election, which run contrary to Senegal’s strong democratic tradition,” Matthew Miller, a US state department spokesman, said in a statement published Tuesday. 

“We are particularly alarmed by reports of security forces removing by force parliamentarians who opposed a bill to delay the election, resulting in a National Assembly vote that cannot be considered legitimate given the conditions under which it took place”.

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