Senegal’s two best known opposition figures have been barred from running in
presidential elections next month, the Constitutional Council said on Monday,
increasing President Macky Sall’s chances of securing a second term in office.
Khalifa Sall, a former mayor of Dakar who bears no relation to President
Sall, and Karim Wade, the son of former President Abdoulaye Wade, were jailed
for graft and corruption in 2018 and 2015 respectively.
Under Senegalese law, the sentences effectively ended their chances of
running in the Feb. 24 poll and the Constitutional Council confirmed this
outcome on Monday.
The opposition says the sentences were part of the president’s plan to
silence popular opponents so he can secure a second mandate, charges the ruling
Both presidential hopefuls had collected more than the 53,000 supporting
signatures required to run.
Khalifa remains in jail, where he is serving a five-year sentence for
embezzling 1.8 billion CFA francs ($3.2 million) in public funds. He was denied
an appeal by the Supreme Court earlier in January, but his lawyer plans to take
the case to another chamber of the court.
Karim went into exile in Qatar in 2017 after serving half of his six-year
In a document sent to lawyers and seen by Reuters on Monday, the
Constitutional Council said Khalifa and Karim’s candidacies went against
Senegal’s electoral law, which bars citizens sentenced to more than five years
in prison from running for president.
The two have 48 hours to appeal the Council’s decision, which will publish a
final list of approved candidates 35 days before the poll.
Only four opposition candidates have so far been approved by the Council,
including Wade’s former Prime Minister Idrissa Seck. Political neophyte Ousmane
Sonko is popular among Senegalese youth, which represent a significant portion
of the voting population.
Senegal, a major exporter of fish and peanuts, has had three largely
peaceful transitions of power since independence from France in 1960.