Riot police fired tear gas outside Senegal's National Assembly on Monday as crowds attempted to gather and protest the postponement of the Feb. 25 presidential election, sparking anger and unrest over the weekend.
Lawmakers are set to debate a bill in parliament that would reschedule the election for Aug. 25 and extend President Macky Sall's mandate until his successor is installed.
Senegal, known for its democratic stability in the region, has never before postponed a presidential election. Sall's announcement on Saturday has stirred controversy, raising concerns about constitutional integrity and democratic norms.
“The African Union on Monday joined a chorus of calls from regional bodies and Western governments for a new election date to be set as soon as possible,” the statement noted.
Outside parliament, armoured police fired tear gas to disperse around 100 people who had gathered to protest, making arrests in the process.
Sall cited a dispute over the candidate list and alleged corruption within the constitutional body responsible for handling the list as reasons for the delay.
The postponement has triggered widespread public outcry and fears of violent protests, echoing concerns about Sall's potential third term and the exclusion of opposition figures from the election.
Opposition and civil society groups have labelled the delay an “institutional coup,” with some contenders vowing to proceed with campaigns despite the setback, while others plan legal challenges.
Police crackdowns intensified on Sunday, with at least two female presidential candidates detained during protests in the capital, Dakar. Authorities also revoked the license of local television channel Walf.
Senegal's sovereign dollar bonds saw a decline on Monday, reflecting investor concerns over political uncertainty. Barclays highlighted the risk of clashes between the opposition and security forces, warning of potential democratic regression due to the election delay.