End of tension in Senegal: Macky Sall will not seek a third term

After months of wrangling, Macky Sall has finally announced that he will not stand for a third term in the Senegalese presidential election in 2024. looks back at the highlights of his presidency and the lively debate sparked by the possibility of a new application.

For months he had been unclear about a possible third term. Senegalese President Macky Sall, in power since 2012, finally announced on Monday July 3 that he would not be a presidential candidate in February 2024.

Fervently hoped for by his supporters, the possibility of a new candidacy had for months caused a lively controversy in Senegal, with his opponents accusing the president of wanting to exploit the rules of the country’s new constitution, which he himself adopted, to his advantage. in 2016.

Macky Sall, for his part, let it be understood that the Constitutional Council had decided this issue and that, from a legal point of view, nothing prevented him from representing himself.

Macky Sall’s “message to the nation” comes in a particularly tense context between the presidential camp and its main opponent, Ousmane Sonko, whose conviction in a sex scandal sparked riots of rare violence in early June that left 16 dead.

Development and social reforms

Elected president on 2 April 2012, Macky Sall then campaigned against his former mentor, President Abdoulaye Wade, himself in the run-up to a third term.

The former prime minister (2004-2007) led his own party, the Alliance for the Republic (APR), against the presidential candidacy, which he considered unconstitutional. Having managed to federate a large part of the opposition, he offered himself a comfortable victory (65.80% of the vote), promising a governance of “fracture”, centered on social justice, structural reforms and development projects. .

Among its flagship reforms are the family allowance – a benefit paid to 300,000 poor beneficiaries, recently expanded and upgraded in response to inflation linked to the war in Ukraine – as well as extensive infrastructure projects: airport works, railways, new town of Diamniadio, construction of the Dakar stadium, road axis to Mali …

Although the economy has seen clear progress in recent years in Senegal (with GDP increasing from $17 to $27 billion over the past ten years), unemployment remains high, above 22%, affecting mainly young people.

On the international stage, the president has distinguished himself by proactive diplomacy, advocating the cancellation of African debt, strengthening the fight against terrorism or even rejecting military coups. During the rotating presidency of the African Union (February 2022-February 2023), he defended African interests in light of the war in Ukraine as well as Africa’s candidacy for the G20.

Constitutional reform and third term

Among the other major focal points in Macky Sall’s first term was constitutional reform. While he had declared himself a “supporter of limiting the term of office in time”, Macky Sall had promised during the campaign to return to the five-year term with immediate effect. However, during the organization of the referendum on this new text, which was adopted in March 2016, he had finally announced that he would go well to the end of his seven-year term, as recommended by the Constitutional Council. This decision was then debated, with some jurists arguing that the institution’s opinion was only advisory and that the president was not bound to follow it.

Dormant after the president’s 2019 re-election, the topic reappeared during his pledges on 31 December 2020. Asked by a journalist about the possibility of a new candidacy, he replied “neither yes nor no”.

“This debate, I will deal with it in good time. Today is work”, he declared a year later during an interview on . He claimed to be “deeply democratic” and then assured that he ” would never take an anti-democratic or unconstitutional action”, while recalling the position of the Constitutional Council, according to which his seven-year term “legally fell outside the scope of the reform, as it was only valid for the future”.

Social tensions

Since those ambiguous remarks, the dispute has continued to grow between the president’s supporters, who called on him to stand down, and his opponents, who accused him of clinging to power. In this context, the two-year prison sentence of Macky Sall’s arch-rival, Ousmane Sonko, for “youth corruption” in an alleged rape case ignited the fire and sparked two days of deadly riots in this country, long considered an island. stability in West Africa.

At the same time, several organizations such as Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders have warned in recent months about the “context of restriction of freedoms” in the country.

“The question of the third term added to the uncertainty we are currently experiencing in Senegal,” said Alioune Tine, founder of the Senegalese think tank Afrikajom Center, which specializes in the defense of human rights.

“Article 27 of the Constitution could not be clearer: ‘No one shall serve more than two consecutive terms’. Macky Sall, for his part, confirmed that he was entitled to another five-year term. We are relieved that he finally gave up. “, he concludes.

To maintain the tension until the end, on Saturday, two days before his long-awaited announcement, the Senegalese president had received the 475 mayors and 37 presidents of departmental councils who had signed a petition in favor of a new candidacy. During his speech, he had expressed to them “his deep gratitude”, failing to grant their wish.

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