Senegal: get out of a dangerous dead end as fast as possible

Tensions have risen sharply in recent weeks in Senegal with the disqualification of the national list of sitting candidates in the parliamentary elections for a major opposition coalition. Three people died at the end of the day on June 18 when a demonstration that was not approved by the authorities provoked violence. Opposition politicians and dozens of people were arrested. The legislative elections scheduled for July 31 promise to be tense.

The political and social context a few weeks before this election meeting is tense and the generally shared feeling is a dead end that risks repeating a cycle of protests, oppression and thus violence. This feeling emerged at the end of a virtual roundtable discussion organized by WATHI on 22 June on the issues of these legislative elections.

For us, it was initially a matter of examining the political offerings of the party coalitions launched in the race, of appreciating the interest of these legislative elections for the voters and of the political actors, and of wondering what could change these elections according to each other results. Meanwhile, controversies before the election and decisions of the institutions responsible for validating party lists have taken precedence over all other considerations.

The virtual round table, to which we had invited four attentive and informed observers from the Senegalese political and institutional scene, highlighted the limits of the electoral rules that have undergone many major changes in recent years: the introduction of citizen sponsorship to filter the candidacies of the various elections, the implementation of the Gender Equality Act but also changes in the process of reviewing and validating the candidate lists. It is clear that the stated desire to improve the electoral process did not create more peace and trust between the political actors.

Is the fundamental problem a crisis of confidence in the institutions involved in the electoral process, as we see in many other countries in the region?

So yes. It should first be noted that the Senegalese electoral framework is quite proven and that it has made it possible to organize credible elections regularly over the years and even two decades. We must also remember, and one of our guests, the journalist and political analyst Barka Ba, did remember that the elections in Senegal have seldom been as calm and peaceful as we usually think. Electoral violence is not new, although it has always been relatively limited compared to many African countries.

But as for the ongoing process, Mamadou Seck, who has extensive experience of electoral processes, such as the academic Mamadou Lamine Sarr, professor of political science, has highlighted inconsistencies and decisions that are difficult to understand, such as this dissociation between the list of incumbents. candidates and the list of replacement candidates presented by the coalitions. Although there is clearly no reason to challenge the decision of an institution that ultimately decides, the Constitutional Council, the indisputable result of the series of astonishing mistakes made by the party coalitions themselves, since the decision of the Directorate-General for Elections and the Constitutional Council is a political stalemate. creates a dangerous dead end.

In the short term, we need a political dialogue to prevent tensions from escalating, you seem to be saying

Yes, we see no other options. Again, we must be careful not to underestimate the possibility that a situation that we believe we can control at some point escapes all control, that of law enforcement agencies, such as their political rivals, opposition leaders frustrated by the turnaround. through the election process. Mrs. Rockiatou Gassama, chair of the Senegalese Women’s Council, did not fail to recall during the discussions that Senegal was surrounded by a “ring of fire”, with serious security and political crises in the region. Now is not the time for this pole of stability to start playing with fire as well.

The virtual round table, in collaboration with the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, is onYouTube channels

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