Senegal’s parliament has passed a vote on Saturday, granting two prominent opposition figures the right to participate in the upcoming presidential election. The proposal, which received overwhelming support with 124 votes in favor and only one against, allows individuals with prior convictions who have been either pardoned or amnestied to run for office.
As a result, Khalifa Sall and Karim Wade, previously ineligible due to past convictions for financial crimes, will now be able to participate in the February 2024 presidential vote.
Khalifa Sall, a former mayor of Dakar, and Karim Wade, the son of former president Abdoulaye Wade, are considered strong contenders in the upcoming election. Both were barred from running in the previous 2019 presidential election due to their separate convictions. However, the recent parliamentary vote has cleared the way for their potential candidacies.
The decision comes after the 2019 election victor, President Macky Sall, who is currently serving his second term, announced in July that he would not seek a third term. His potential bid for a third term had been a subject of dispute over its legality.
The parliamentary vote’s impact is not limited to the political landscape. Senegal has experienced political tension and violence in recent months, partly due to the exclusion of leading opposition figures like Wade and Sall from the electoral race based on their convictions. The indictment and detention of another leading opposition figure, Ousmane Sonko, further intensified the country’s political climate. Sonko’s party was dissolved, and he faces challenges in participating in the upcoming presidential poll due to his legal troubles.
President Sall initiated talks with a section of the opposition in May, aiming to discuss the eligibility of Khalifa Sall and Wade for political office. These discussions ultimately led to the recent legislative change, allowing them to participate in the presidential race.
The exclusion of Ousmane Sonko from the presidential race adds a sense of unpredictability to the upcoming election, making it more open and competitive. With the political landscape shifting, it remains to be seen how the presidential candidates and their alliances will shape up before the election.
As the nation prepares for the crucial presidential race next year, all eyes will be on the leading contenders, Karim Wade and Khalifa Sall, to observe their strategies and appeal to the electorate. While the opposition figures have condemned the judicial proceedings against them as politically motivated, their participation in the election is now secured, potentially altering the dynamics of Senegal’s political landscape. President Macky Sall is expected to nominate his chosen successor after meeting with several hopefuls on Thursday, which will further shape the race for Senegal’s highest office.