Senegal's President Says Election Will Be As Soon As Possible, After Court Overturns Delay

FILE - Senegal President Macky Sall poses before an interview with The Associated Press at the presidential palace in Dakar, Senegal, Feb. 9 , 2024. Senegal will hold elections as soon as possible given that the country's top election authority has overturned a decree by President Sall to postpone the vote, the government said Friday, Feb. 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Sylvain Cherkaoui, File)
FILE - Senegal President Macky Sall poses before an interview with The Associated Press at the presidential palace in Dakar, Senegal, Feb. 9 , 2024. Senegal will hold elections as soon as possible given that the country's top election authority has overturned a decree by President Sall to postpone the vote, the government said Friday, Feb. 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Sylvain Cherkaoui, File)

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Senegal will hold a presidential election as soon as possible given that the country's top election authority has overturned a decree by President Macky Sall to postpone the vote, the government said Friday.

Sall in early February sought to postpone the Feb. 25 election citing unresolved disputes over who could run, and the National Assembly voted to reschedule it for Dec. 15.

However, the country's Constitutional Council ruled Thursday that those moves were unconstitutional and ordered the government to hold the election as soon as possible, presumably allowing enough time for campaigning. The panel acknowledged that Feb. 25 wouldn't now be feasible, but said the government should act quickly.

In a statement Friday, presidential spokesperson Yoro Dia said that Sall intends to ensure full compliance with the council's decision and hold the elections as soon as possible, though the government didn't yet specify a new date.

Senegal has been seen as one of the region's most stable democracies, but election disputes have plunged the country into a political crisis that has sparked deadly protests and cuts to mobile internet. At least three people have been killed by security forces and dozens injured.

Sall has been accused of trying to delay leaving office, something he denied to during an AP interview last week.

Local and international pressure has mounted since the moves to delay the vote.

In a post Friday on X, formerly Twitter, the U.S. Bureau of African Affairs commended the council's decision “to put Senegal back on track for a timely presidential election."

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres noted the Constitutional Council’s ruling and the president’s decision and urged all Senegalese parties “to ensure the holding of an inclusive and transparent presidential election within the framework of the constitution of Senegal,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

Also on Friday The West African region bloc, ECOWAS, said in a statement Friday that Sall should stick to the election timetable, and requested the “competent authorities” to set a date for the presidential election in accordance with the council's decision.

It's unclear when a date would be set, and whether there would be changes to who is allowed to run.

Sall, who came to power in 2012, is set to finish his two terms on April 2. According to the constitution, elections have to be held 30-45 days before his mandate ends.

In an effort to calm the public, the government has released several hundred political prisoners this week.

The opposition has said the situation could be diffused by releasing all the prisoners and starting talks between the opposition and the president about setting an early date for elections, said Dr. Manel Fall, a member of the dissolved PASTEF opposition party.

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Associated Press reporter Edith M. Lederer contributed from the United Nations