New Bid to Cancel Senegal Vote Set to Fail, Analyst Says

(Bloomberg) -- Senegalese opposition politician Karim Wade’s court bid to cancel elections is unlikely to succeed, an analyst said, defusing fears of further delays.

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Wade asked the country’s Supreme Court to cancel the vote scheduled for this month, arguing there’s not enough time to prepare for the ballot.

“The Constitutional Council has already approved the election date, noting that this is part of the prerogatives of the president,” said Ndiaga Sylla, a Dakar-based analyst and adviser to the European Union’s election observer mission.

The vote was originally scheduled for Feb. 25 but was canceled by President Macky Sall. Lawmakers later sought to move the contest to December, before Sall settled on a March 24 date last week after talks with political, religious and civil society leaders.

The sparring over the election date has scarred Senegal’s reputation as one of Africa’s most stable democracies and weighed on investor sentiment. Its bonds have been among the worst emerging-market performers this year. The country is on the verge of becoming an oil and gas producer, and the International Monetary Fund expects its economy to expand more than 8% in 2024.

Read More: How Normally Stable Senegal Came Close to Crisis: QuickTake

Wade together with members of former President Abdoulaye Wade’s Senegalese Democratic Party argued that the period between the announcement of the election date last week and the voting day is too short, while the two-week campaign period wasn’t long enough, according to court documents. A spokesman for the party also said the electoral code had been violated.

Senegal’s electoral law states that elections must be called 80 days in advance and that campaigns should last 21 days.

Wade’s lawyers couldn’t be reached for a comment. The son of the former president and a candidate for his party, he was disqualified from participating in the election because the Constitutional Council ruled that he held French nationality at the time he filed his candidacy.

Wade’s disqualification from the race made him ineligible to seek an annulment of the election, said Djiby Diagne, a Dakar-based lawyer with the Senegalese bar association. “In matters regarding the election, the Constitutional Council has superiority over the Supreme Court.”

The court vetted 19 candidates including Sall’s chosen successor, former Prime Minister Amadou Ba, and Bassirou Diomaye Faye, who’s running for the main opposition coalition.

Ousmane Sonko, the main opposition leader who was barred from standing and has been in jail since July, could benefit from a recent amnesty law and be released ahead of the election. He is likely to be reinstated on the voters’ roll after the state on Tuesday dropped an appeal against his inclusion.

The election campaign kicked off at the weekend.

Read More: Senegal Presidential Hopeful Pledges Review of Gas and Oil Deals

--With assistance from Alister Bull.

(Updates with status of main opposition leader in penultimate paragraph. An earlier version of this story corrected the attribution in the headline.)

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