Pre-election tensions in Senegal | The Press

(Dakar) Clashes broke out on Friday in Dakar between young people and the Senegalese police while opposition leader Ousmane Sonko was stuck at home after his call to defy a ban on demonstrations, signs of an increasingly tense with the approach of the legislative elections at the end of July.

Groups of young people throwing stones were repelled in the afternoon by tear gas and stun grenades fired by riot police near the Place de la Nation where the demonstration was planned, AFP journalists noted.

The huge esplanade, usually black with people, was deserted, with the exception of a large police force. All the stores had drawn the curtain and no one could approach.

“The police prevent people from gathering and enforce the orders of the prefect. So far it seems under control. But what will happen next, we don’t know,” Bamba Diop, 30, told AFP as gunshots were heard from a distance.

At midday, the police prevented Mr. Sonko from going to Friday prayers, while the first disturbances were reported on social networks, young people who set fire to tires and attacked street furniture on an important axis. capital road.

“Even our freedom of worship is violated today. The security forces told me that they had received the order not to let me go out”, said Mr. Sonko calmly, dressed in the traditional boubou for prayer, after coming up against a barrage of police, whom he said he did not blame.

Power is giving in to “panic”, Mr. Sonko, third in the 2019 presidential election, declared candidate for that of 2024 and popular personality among young people, had earlier assured.

The opposition called for demonstrations on Friday afternoon against the invalidation of a national list of candidates for the July 31 legislative elections, and more broadly against power.

This invalidation excludes Mr. Sonko and certain opposition figures from the competition.

The prefect banned the demonstration citing “threats of public order disturbances”. Mr. Sonko and the leaders of his coalition announced their intention to defy the decree and called for massive demonstrations.

“The demonstration is maintained, it will indeed take place,” assured AFP Ousseynou Ly, spokesperson for Mr. Sonko’s party, the Pastef.

Many voices have been raised to call for dialogue in the face of the risk of violence similar to the riots which, in March 2021, left a dozen people dead in the country.

“The Council has decided”

But the power and the opposition have given no sign of wanting to compromise and analysts generally describe a political stalemate.

The opposition denounces the invalidation of the national list of the Yewwi Askan Wi coalition, led by Mr. Sonko’s party, as a ploy by President Macky Sall to dismiss his opponents under cover of legal means.

The Ministry of the Interior justified this decision by invoking the ineligibility of one of its candidates, who inadvertently appears both among the incumbents and the alternates. The Constitutional Council confirmed.

The opposition has threatened to prevent the elections from taking place if Yewwi Askan Wi does not participate. In fact, Yewwi can still compete, but Mr. Sonko cannot.

The Senegalese elect their 150 deputies according to a method that mixes proportional voting, with national lists for 53 parliamentarians, and majority voting in the departments for 97 others. The diaspora elects 15 deputies.

It is the national list of Yewwi holders that is rejected. But the coalition can participate with the list of alternates and with its candidates in the departments.

President Sall closed the door to a repechage of the invalidated list. “Anyway, the country is going to hold these elections, the Constitutional Council has decided,” he said.

The questioning of Mr. Sonko by the courts in a case of alleged rape had contributed in March 2021 to several days of riots, looting and destruction.

Two other opponents of the president, the former mayor of Dakar Khalifa Sall (unrelated to Macky Sall) and the former minister Karim Wade, son of a former president, have seen their trajectory interrupted by legal troubles.

Power defends itself against any instrumentalization of the state apparatus.

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