Senegal president could set election date after crisis talks

Senegal’s President Macky Sall could soon set a date for a delayed presidential election after two days of talks aimed at settling the country’s biggest political crisis in decades.

Sall was expected at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday to put forward a draft amnesty bill for political prisoners, a gesture of “reconciliation” that he said would “pacify” his opponents.

It was part of his response to a crisis sparked by his postponement of a presidential election that had been due to take place on Sunday.

The amnesty could see the release of hundreds of people detained during anti-government protests that erupted in 2021, including leading opposition figure Ousmane Sonko.

Sall opened a “national dialogue” on Monday aimed at reaching a “consensus” on a new election date — which he proposed could be held by June or July.

Hundreds of political leaders, civil society representatives and religious figures gathered for the two-day meeting in the new town of Diamniadio, some 30 kilometres (19 miles) from Dakar.

But 17 of the 19 candidates approved by the Constitutional Council to stand in the election boycotted the discussions, as did other civil society groups.

On Tuesday, a “broad consensus” was reached in favour of Sall remaining in office until a successor is sworn in, six participants told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Other political and civic groups are demanding the poll be held before April 2 — when Sall’s mandate ends.

Sall said last week he would set a date “immediately” if there was a “consensus”.

The West African nation is facing its worst political crisis in decades after Sall abruptly deferred the presidential vote just hours before campaigning was due to begin.

Sall, in power since 2012, said he called off the vote over disputes about the disqualification of potential candidates and fears of a return to the unrest seen in 2021 and 2023.


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