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Senegal’s Sall promises to hold delayed presidential vote as soon as possible

SENEGALESE President Macky Sall said that he would fully abide by a court decision that overturned the postponement of the presidential election to December, pledging to hold consultations to organise the vote as soon as possible.

A bill that pushed back the February 25 poll and plunged the country into electoral uncertainty was overturned on Thursday by Senegal’s Constitutional Council.

Sall “has taken note” of the council’s decision and request for the election to be held as soon as possible, the presidency said in a statement on Friday.

“The president intends to fully execute the constitutional council’s decision,” it added.

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Sall has been under significant pressure to accept the ruling. The week-long electoral crisis has already led to violent protests and warnings of authoritarian overreach in one of coup-hit West Africa’s more stable democracies.

Another demonstration against the delay was due to begin in the capital Dakar just as the presidency issued Sall’s response. Fewer than a hundred people turned up as police blocked access to meeting points and fired tear gas to disperse protesters.

Dakar resident Mohamed Alpha Diop welcomed the prospect of a shorter delay to elections. “I think it will really calm things down,” he said.

Opposition leaders, West Africa’s main economic and political bloc ECOWAS, and foreign powers including the United States and France urged authorities earlier on Friday to comply with the judgement and quickly set a new date for the election.

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Prices of Senegal’s bonds jumped by the most in just under a year after the council ruled. Although in some cases, the 2 cent rise, still left them well below levels seen before the election delay was first announced on February 5.

Many opposition figures have welcomed the council’s ruling and some have called on Sall to set an election date before April 2, when his mandate expires.

“On April 2, the president will go,” said opposition leader Khalifa Sall, who has condemned recent events as an “institutional coup”.

“Now conditions need to be adapted because holding elections on February 25 would not be materially possible,” he said during an interview in Dakar, adding that he was prepared to take part in talks with all sides to agree on a new date.

“We could not manage to hold the election before April 2,” he noted, stressing that all relevant actors would need to be consulted on the matter.

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By PORTIA CROWE and NGOUDA DIONE

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