The presidential bid of popular Senegalese opposition politician Ousmane Sonko was thrown into doubt on Monday after a court of appeal handed him a heavier suspended sentence in a libel case.
Boubacar Cissé, a lawyer involved in the case, said Sonko’s suspended prison sentence in the case involving the tourism minister, whom Cissé represents, had been extended to six months.
In March, Sonko had received a two-month suspended sentence, a ruling that still allowed him to compete for the presidency in next year’s election. If he does not successfully challenge the new sentence, it will likely preclude him from the race under the electoral code on candidates’ eligibility, said Moussa Diaw, senior lecturer in political science at Gaston Berger University in the Senegalese city of Saint Louis.
“If this sentence is final, there is a good chance that his candidacy will be inadmissible,” Diaw said. “This could seriously sully the political dialogue.”
Sonko’s lawyers declined immediate comment. He has six days to file an appeal with the Supreme Court.
The earlier lighter sentence was interpreted as an apparent effort by authorities to defuse a long-running stand-off with Sonko’s supporters, who have repeatedly taken to the streets to denounce what they say is a politically motivated campaign.