How Senegal’s presidential election was postponed, reinstated and moved up

Voters in Senegal go to the polls on Sunday to elect a new president in the most wide-open election in the country’s history. The vote comes a few weeks after the explosion of a profound political crisis triggered by its cancellation and then delay by President Macky Sall. FRANCE 24 takes a look back at recent events.

Senegal is set to experience a new stage in its electoral drama on Sunday as some 7 million voters go to the polls across the West African country to elect their next president.

The election is remarkable in several ways, not least because it marks the end of President Macky Sall’s 12 years in power. And with 17 candidates vying to succeed him, it is the most wide-open presidential vote since Senegal gained independence from France in 1960.

It also marks the culmination of an intense political battle over the date of the polls, which began when Sall cancelled the election three weeks before its initial date of February 25, sending shock waves throughout Senegal. FRANCE 24 traces the key developments during the democratic crisis that ensued. 

Postponement of the vote

Sall announced that the ballot would be postponed indefinitely while speaking on national television on February 3, just a few hours before the start of the presidential campaign.

“For the past few days, our country has been faced with a dispute between the National Assembly and the Constitutional Council, in open conflict over an alleged case of corruption of judges,” he said, arguing that this situation threatened the credibility of the vote.

FRANCE 24 Special Edition: Senegal vote postponed ‘indefinitely’

Senegalese President Macky Sall postponed the country’s presidential elections © FRANCE 24 screengrab

Senegalese lawmakers four days earlier approved a parliamentary inquiry into how some potential candidates’ applications to enter the race had been invalidated. The inquiry was called for by the party of Karim Wade, who was excluded from the contest due to his French citizenship, as only citizens of exclusively Senegalese nationality are allowed to run. Wade’s supporters said they suspected two Constitutional Council judges of having “dubious connections” with some candidates, notably Prime Minister Amadou Ba, Sall’s preferred successor.

At the same time, police took presidential candidate Rose Wardini, whose application had been validated by the Constitutional Council, into custody on charges of “forgery, use of forgery and fraud” on suspicion of having dual French-Senegalese nationality.

A political manoeuvre?

Sall said on national TV that “these troubled conditions” could “sow the seeds of pre- and post-electoral dispute”.

“Our country cannot afford a new crisis” after episodes of violence in March 2021 and June 2023, he said.

Sall announced the establishment of a “national dialogue” for “a free, transparent and inclusive election”, while reaffirming his commitment not to stand for a third consecutive term.

But Sall’s decision to postpone the vote sparked many questions in Senegal, not least because ruling party MPs themselves had voted in favour of the parliamentary inquiry. While these legislators said they wanted to clear the name of their candidate Amadou Ba, the opposition blasted a manoeuvre designed to torpedo the election and prevent his defeat. 

Ba is also facing two dissident candidates from within his own camp: former prime minister Mahammed Boun Abdallah Dionne and former interior minister Aly Ngouille Ndiaye.

But general opinion in Senegal holds that Bassirou Diomaye Faye, a candidate chosen by opposition leader Ousmane Sonko to replace him after his own candidacy was invalidated, poses the main threat to the outgoing president’s preferred candidate.

Reacting to Sall’s decision to postpone the election, lawyer and Faye supporter Amadou Ba (not to be confused with the prime minister) criticised the president’s arguments as “incredibly unserious”, pointing out that the parliamentary commission of inquiry was set up only on “mere suspicions” of corruption.

The day after Sall’s televised speech, hundreds of Senegalese demonstrated in the capital Dakar, where clashes broke out with police.

Lawmakers approve December polls

To cancel the February 25 election, Sall repealed a decree summoning the electorate. All that remained was to set a new date. Wade’s coalition called for a six-month postponement and submitted a bill to parliament. During a particularly tense session, lawmakers on February 5 approved December 15 as the new election date, judging the initially proposed date of August 25 to be unfit due to the rainy season.

The new deadline meant that Sall’s mandate, due to end on April 2, would be extended by 10 months. Many people in Senegal objected, denouncing a “constitutional coup d’état” enabling the president to hold on to power. 

Read moreSenegal’s democratic record on the line as presidential vote delay sparks crisis

Several presidential candidates lodged appeals with the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Council to block the postponement of the vote. 

Tensions quickly escalated in the streets. Police cracked down on demonstrations organised across Senegal on February 9 and in the days that followed. Four people died in Dakar, Saint-Louis and Ziguinchor – the southern town where Sonko was elected mayor in 2022 – in connection with the protests, the worst outbreak of violence during the election crisis.

Constitutional Council rules against postponement

The Constitutional Council on February 15 delivered its verdict on the appeal of the election postponement, and it was a clear blow to Sall: the court annulled his decree abrogating the vote for lack of legal basis. The council also found that the law adopted by parliament to postpone the vote violated the constitution, a second no-go.

Noting “the impossibility of organising the presidential election on the initially scheduled date” of February 25, the Constitutional Council asked “the competent authorities to hold it as soon as possible”.

The “national dialogue” organised by Sall but boycotted by the opposition recommended in early March that the delayed vote take place on June 2. In that scenario, Sall would remain in office until the inauguration of Senegal’s fifth president. The proposal was rejected by the Constitutional Council, which ruled that the election must occur before the end of Sall’s term on April 2.

The president and the council on March 7 finally agreed to hold Senegal’s election on March 24. The new date has the advantage of not falling on the Easter holiday, but meant that the presidential campaign unfolded during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan – a first in Senegal’s history. The campaign period was also shortened from 21 to 17 days.

As part of an amnesty law passed by parliament a week earlier, Sonko and his replacement candidate Faye were released from prison on March 14 to rapturous celebrations by their supporters in the streets of Dakar.

On the following day, a final petition from Wade’s camp seeking to ban the ballot on the grounds that it would occur too soon was rejected by the Supreme Court, thus removing the last potential obstacle to the presidential election on Sunday.

This article is a translation of the original in French.

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What went wrong with the investigation that toppled Portugal’s PM?

‘Operation Influencer’ brought down a sitting prime minister for the first time in Portugal’s history. As prosecutors admit mistakes, many are asking: Was the downfall of Portugal’s PM necessary?


The Portuguese political tsunami began a week ago, when two people close to the now ex-Prime Minister António Costa were arrested.

They were accused of irregularities in the concession of lithium deposits and green hydrogen projects.

Hours later, Costa himself hastily announced his resignation, triggering an early election – the second in two years.

“I leave office with a clear conscience,” the prime minister told the press, as Portuguese society looked on baffled, while European socialists mourned the loss of a politician tipped for higher EU office. 

This was just the beginning of ‘Operation Influencer’, an investigation that for the first time in Portugal’s history brought down a sitting prime minister.

Within days, however, the threads of the investigation began to unravel, after Portuguese prosecutors admitted they had confused the name of Prime Minister António Costa, with that of Economy Minister António Costa Silva, in the transcript of wiretaps.

But what other mistakes were made in the operation, which ended with the fall of the PM?

What is happening in Portugal?

The solid parliamentary majority enjoyed by António Costa’s Socialists was not enough to keep the government afloat.

Last Tuesday morning, a political shockwave shook the southern European country.

Prosecutors ordered the arrest of two members of Prime Minister António Costa’s inner circle, his chief of staff Vítor Escária and businessman Diogo Lacerda Machado.

Lacerda and Costa have been good friends since they studied law together in Lisbon. When Costa became prime minister in 2015, Lacerda Machado was able to stay by his friend’s side.

According to Portuguese media, investors were in the habit of hiring Lacerda Machado’s lawyer to learn more about the government’s inner machinations. 

Costa is under investigation for influence peddling, embezzlement and fraud. According to his own chief of staff, he is said to have unblocked concession files for mining operations.

In an institutional speech last weekend, the former prime minister explained that ‘whatever Lacerda Machado has done, he has never done it with my authorisation, a prime minister has no friends’.

“Throughout his administration, Costa stuck to the principle of not resigning when it came to members of his government,” says Paula Espírito Santo, Professor of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Lisbon. 

“He kept them until the last minute, until the pressure was too high. But when it came to himself, he resigned immediately, he didn’t follow this principle,” she told Euronews. 

In total, police carried out more than 42 searches, including Costa’s office in Sao Bento Palace and the ministries of infrastructure and the environment.

During the searches, envelopes containing more than € 75,000 in cash were found in the office of António Costa’s chief of staff, Vítor Escária, in the prime minister’s official residence.


The other three people arrested in the case are the mayor of Sines, Nuno Mascarenhas, and two administrators of the company Start Campus, whose project to produce green hydrogen and build a data centre in Sines is under investigation.

Portugal’s infrastructure minister, Joao Galamba, also resigned on Monday.

Why has the prosecution been deflated?

During the first days of the investigation, the Portuguese Public Prosecutor’s Office made a mistake that has since dogged their case.

They admitted that they had confused the Minister of Economy, António Costa Silva, with the country’s Prime Minister, António Costa, in a transcript of wiretaps in the corruption case.

“It was (Diogo) Lacerda Machado who informed the Public Prosecutor’s Office that there had indeed been a mistake, and the Public Prosecutor’s Office had to accept it,” Lacerda Machado’s lawyer told the press.


“Of course, these errors are not serious if they are unintentional. Whether it was intentional or not, I can’t slander the Public Prosecutor’s Office,” the lawyer added.

According to Professor Espírito Santo,  in the eyes of the public, these mistakes undermine the investigation, but at the end of the day it is the process itself that is important. 

“Nevertheless, it’s certainly not good for the image of the Portuguese public prosecutor’s office, which should be more careful in a case of this importance,” she adds.

Not only have the defendants contradicted the prosecution, but so has the judge in charge of the case.

Judge Nuno Dias Costa has released the five detainees, saying he does not believe they should be investigated for corruption or prevarication, as he only sees signs of influence peddling.


However, he ordered them to stay in the country and hand over their passports. Lacerda Machado must also pay a bail of € 150,000 within 15 days.

Dias Costa thus rejected the prosecution’s request to remand in custody the two main players in the case: the former chief of staff of the prime minister and Lacerda Machado.

The decision, which adds to the mistakes made by the public authorities, has provoked criticism from a part of society that wonders whether this political turmoil was necessary.

“The President of the Parliament also stressed that they should clarify what’s going on, because there’s a lot of talk that they’re tarnishing the public image of justice,” says the political scientist.

“There has been much criticism of the process, especially from the Socialist Party. The other parties are quieter because they now have a chance in the next elections,” she adds.


The end of Costa’s European dream?

Until this month’s scandal, Prime Minister Costa had been tipped for a senior leadership position with the EU in Brussels. 

Europe’s socialists, who have been losing strength on the old continent after each election, had applauded the parliamentary majority Costa had won in Portugal.

So they wanted the former prime minister to get a powerful EU job, where he could keep company with Josep Borrel, another socialist and head of European diplomacy.

“It’s not easy to know what will happen to Costa. Until this moment we thought he had lost all his expectations, but the more we know about the investigation, the more some people regret what has happened,” says Professor Espírito Santo.

“There are more and more voices saying that if there wasn’t enough evidence he shouldn’t have resigned. So they’re blaming him and asking why he rushed into this decision”.


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Lebanese President Aoun leaves office and legacy of economic meltdown

Lebanon’s outgoing President Michel Aoun vacated the palace of Baabda on Sunday, leaving a void at the top of the failing country.

The 89-year-old Christian presided over the state’s financial meltdown and the deadly Beirut port explosion that killed over 200 people in 2020.

Leaving office with no one in line to replace him also leaves Lebanon facing a constitutional crisis.

But despite the troubled legacy thousands of supporters turned out to wave him off after hearing him acknowledge the struggle ahead.

“The situation requires a huge effort,” Aoun told the crowd. “You know how much Lebanon and you yourselves have lost. Without this effort, we cannot put an end to our suffering. We cannot salvage Lebanon out of this deep pit.”

Four sessions in Lebanon’s fractured parliament have failed to reach a consensus to replace Aoun and the cabinet is now operating in a caretaker capacity. 

One bright spot in his legacy is that In his final week as president he signed a US-brokered deal delineating Lebanon’s southern maritime border with Israel – a modest diplomatic breakthrough that would allow both countries to extract natural gas from maritime deposits.

Aoun said the deal paved the way for gas discoveries that could be Lebanon’s “last chance” at recovering from a three-year financial meltdown that has cost the currency 95% of its value and pushed 80% of the population into poverty.

Lebanon has otherwise made slow progress on a checklist of reforms required to gain access to $3 billion in financing from the International Monetary Fund.

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