Delay Of Senegal's Feb. 25 Presidential Election Is Ruled Illegal, Leaving Date Uncertain

FILE - Demonstrators protest President Macky Sall decision to postpone the Feb. 25 vote, citing an electoral dispute between the parliament and the judiciary regarding some candidacies in Dakar, Senegal, Friday, Feb. 9, 2024. Senegal’s top election authority has voided the president’s postponement of a presidential election scheduled for Feb. 25 and its rescheduling in December, saying the moves were unconstitutional. A judgement approved by seven members of Senegal’s Constitutional Council cancelled the decree signed by President Macky Sall that postponed the election. (AP Photo/Stefan Kleinowitz, File)
FILE - Demonstrators protest President Macky Sall decision to postpone the Feb. 25 vote, citing an electoral dispute between the parliament and the judiciary regarding some candidacies in Dakar, Senegal, Friday, Feb. 9, 2024. Senegal’s top election authority has voided the president’s postponement of a presidential election scheduled for Feb. 25 and its rescheduling in December, saying the moves were unconstitutional. A judgement approved by seven members of Senegal’s Constitutional Council cancelled the decree signed by President Macky Sall that postponed the election. (AP Photo/Stefan Kleinowitz, File)

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Senegal’s top election authority on Thursday voided the government's postponement of a presidential election scheduled for Feb. 25 and its rescheduling for December, ruling that the moves were unconstitutional.

Senegal's Constitutional Council cancelled the decree signed by President Macky Sall that postponed the election, according to a judgement approved by seven members of the body, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press.

The National Assembly's decision on Feb. 5 to reschedule the vote for Dec. 15 also was “contrary to the constitution,” the judgement said. "The constitutional council, noting the impossibility of organizing the presidential election on the date initially planned, invites the competent authorities to hold it as soon as possible,” it added.

The postponement has thrown the country into political turmoil, and it was not immediately clear if the election could go forward as initially scheduled, or whether more time would be needed to allow for political campaigns.

Sall did not immediately make any public comments in reaction to the ruling. In an interview late last week with The Associated Press, he had declined to speak on whether he would accept the court’s decision if it rejected the delay, saying instead that “I will be able to say what I will do” when that judgment is made.

The Senegalese leader had postponed the election hours before campaigns were to start, citing a dispute between the judiciary and the legislature over the final list of candidates as well as the reported dual nationality of some of the candidates.

The postponement was rejected by opposition leaders who led a protest against it, resulting in violent clashes with security forces, arrests and mobile internet cuts that further deepened political tensions in one of Africa’s most stable democracies.

This year's election, unlike previous years, has been dogged by controversies from deadly protests that resulted in Sall announcing that he would not seek a third term, to the disqualification of two opposition leaders.

The opposition accused Sall of plotting to hold on to power beyond the constitutionally allowed limit though the Senegalese leader denied this. He told The AP that he postponed the vote to prevent the country from plunging into “major difficulties” over the electoral dispute.

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Asadu reported from Abuja, Nigeria. Associated Press writer Sam Mednick in Dakar contributed.