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Senegal sets December 15 as election date

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By Melissa Chemam, RFI

Senegal’s parliament voted to hold the postponed presidential election on 15 December.

Riot police fired tear gas to disperse protests outside parliament last night as lawmakers discussed the bill that initially proposed rescheduling the 25 February vote to 25 August.

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However, just before the final vote, the bill was amended to propose a later election date of 15 December, an amendment that was passed by 105 MPs in the 165-seat Assembly.

After hours of procedural discussions, lawmakers had been due to start the debate and vote on the bill, when around a dozen opposition members rushed to the central dais and refused to leave, effectively halting parliamentary debates.

More than two hours later, security forces moved them off the central area, allowing the vote to proceed.

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“What you are doing is not democratic, it’s not republican,” said opposition MP, Guy Marius Sagna, who was one of several rebel MPs wearing a sash in the colours of the Senegalese flag.

The former Pastef party MP, Ayib Daffé, told RFI that he believed the 15 December decision is unconstitutional.

“They managed to pass the amendment which extends the mandate of the president of the republic illegally, unconstitutionally until 15 December. We are not going to accept this.”

Other opposition and civil society groups have angrily rejected the decision, with some claiming Sall is trying to postpone his departure.

The F24 platform, a large group of organisations behind past demonstrations, and candidate Khalifa Sall, hzave called it an “institutional coup”.

The postponement faces a strong pushback. At least three of the 20 presidential candidates submitted legal challenges to the delay, Constitutional Council documents showed. Two more candidates have vowed to challenge it via the courts.

Around 100 people gathered outside parliament on Monday, after confrontations on Sunday, chanting “Macky Sall is a dictator”.

Police fired tear gas, chased them into side streets and made arrests.

Earlier, authorities also temporarily restricted mobile Internet access since Sunday night, citing hate messages on social media and threats to public order.

The private Walf television channel said it was taken off air on Sunday and had its licence revoked.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have issued warnings, calling on the government to respect the right to peaceful assembly and “ensure fundamental freedoms”.

The deputy spokesperson for the US State Department, Vedant Patel, also told RFI that Washington is “deeply concerned about the situation in Senegal”, and has called on the Senegalese authorities to “immediately restore access to the Internet and to respect freedom of expression, including for the press.”

Resignation

Meanwhile as we were going to press last night, Minister of State, Awa Marie Coll Seck, resigned from her post and as president of EITI. No reasons were publicly given for her departure.

Professor Awa Marie Coll Seck was appointed on 8 April 2019 as head of the National Committee for the Initiative for Transparency in the Management of Extractive Industries. 

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