Senegal’s scheduled presidential election for February 25 has been postponed, according to President Macky Sall, who announced on Saturday in a televised address to the country that he had annulled the relevant law because of electoral problems he said would exacerbate tensions. With just over three weeks remaining before the election, Senegal is thrust into constitutionally uncharted territory with the historic decision to postpone the vote to an undisclosed date, which some opposition and civil society organizations have referred to as a “institutional coup.”
A coalition of opposition parties has already pledged to contest the action in court, so increasing the likelihood of a drawn-out legal dispute that might further cloud the future of democracy. Sall’s choice comes after the constitutional council decided in January to omit a few well-known candidates from the electoral list.
Senegal’s presidential election has been postponed due to President Sall’s reiteration of his decision not to run again. The U.S. State Department’s Africa bureau expressed concern about the disruption to the electoral calendar.
The capital Dakar appeared calm after Sall’s announcement, with no immediate signs of protest. The F24 platform, a group of civil society organizations, will hold an emergency meeting to decide how to respond to the “institutional coup d’etat that is taking shape.”
The country has never before delayed a presidential vote, and its four peaceful transitions of power since independence from France in 1960 have built up its reputation for stability.