Senegal opposition MPs try to block parliament vote on election postponement

Senegal opposition MPs try to block parliament vote on election postponement
# 06 February 2024 05:20 (UTC +04:00)

A group of Senagalese opposition lawmakers on Monday tried to block a parliamentary vote on the postponement of a presidential election, a move that has triggered a public outcry and international alarm, APA reports citing Reuters.

Earlier riot police fired tear gas to disperse chanting protesters outside the national assembly, where lawmakers were meeting to vote on a bill that would reschedule the Feb. 25 vote to Aug. 25 and extend President Macky Sall's mandate until his successor is installed.

Sall's unprecedented announcement on Saturday pitched the West African nation into uncharted constitutional waters that threaten to tarnish its reputation as a bastion of democratic stability in a region swept by coups.

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

"What you are doing is not democratic, it’s not republican," said MP Guy Marius Sagna, wearing a sash in the colours of the Senegalese flag. He was one of several rebel MPs who criticized those ready to approve the vote.

With his podium blocked, the Speaker of the House withdrew from the chamber. It was not immediately clear how the impasse would be dealt with.

The postponement faced pushback elsewhere on Monday. At least three of the 20 presidential candidates submitted legal challenges to the postponement, Constitutional Council documents showed. Two more candidates have vowed to challenge it via the courts.

Ratings agency Moody's on Monday warned that any lengthy delay to the election could hamper the country's planned fiscal consolidation by making it harder to implement policies, including a promised phasing out of energy subsidies by 2025.

Senegal's sovereign dollar bonds fell sharply. The bond maturing in 2033 tumbled more than 4 cents on the dollar to 82.4 cents - its biggest one-day fall since the 2020 COVID-19 market rout - Tradeweb data showed.

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.

Authorities have temporarily restricted mobile internet access from Sunday night, citing hate messages on social media and threats to public order. Several schools sent pupils home early.

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

"Senegal has been known as a country with a strong democracy but this is no longer the case," one protester who only gave his first name, Dame, told Reuters.

"The only thing we want is a fair election." He said he was worried Sall would cling on to power indefinitely.

The African Union and United States on Monday joined a chorus of calls from regional bodies and Western governments for a new election date to be set as soon as possible.