Senegal: Swift Election Campaign Amidst Political Tensions

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Senegal is witnessing a fast-paced election campaign ahead of the presidential election scheduled for March 24th, shortened by two weeks. Several candidates have launched their electoral caravans in Dakar over the weekend, aiming to persuade as many voters as possible. However, the notable absentee so far is the candidate from the dissolved Pastef party, Bassirou Diomaye Faye.

Following a decision by the National Audiovisual Regulation Council (CNRA) in Senegal, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, the number two of the dissolved Pastef party led by opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, was deprived of airtime on the public television channel RTS. The CNRA ruled that only the presidential candidate can appear in these three-minute campaign videos broadcast daily on the public television channel.

As Bassirou Diomaye Faye remains in preventive detention, his campaign director, Mustapha Guirassy, read out a statement signed by the candidate on camera. However, the media regulatory body ordered RTS to withdraw the video, which was not aired as planned on Sunday.

Pastef has denounced this as a violation of the principle of equality among candidates and a breach of the law, as Bassirou Diomaye Faye is effectively denied the opportunity to present his program daily during these three minutes. According to the candidate’s representative, Amadou Ba, “Nowhere is it mentioned that only the candidate should speak in these famous videos.”

Ba intends to “formally demand compliance with the law from the director of the CNRA” and “urge the national electoral commission to overturn the regulatory body’s decision.” He also calls on RTS to broadcast statements from individuals chosen by the candidate while he is in prison.

Supreme Court Petition by PDS

Meanwhile, the political atmosphere remains tense, with the Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS) of disqualified candidate Karim Wade on the verge of filing a petition with the Supreme Court for violating electoral law.

The petition includes two key provisions, the electoral body must normally be convened 80 days before the presidential election, and the campaign period for the first round of elections should last 21 days, which is not the case with the presidential election scheduled for March 24th.

The PDS hopes that the Supreme Court will confirm this violation of electoral law and render the electoral body’s decree null and void. The question remains whether the Supreme Court will declare itself competent, and if this petition will impact the election schedule. However, according to several legal experts, only the Constitutional Council is competent for decrees related to the presidential election, and it has already validated the decision to hold the election on March 24th.


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