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Senegal police fire tear gas to break up vote delay protest

Senegalese gendarmes patrol a road during demonstrations called by the opposition parties in Dakar. — AFP
Senegalese gendarmes patrol a road during demonstrations called by the opposition parties in Dakar. — AFP

DAKAR: Riot police fired tear gas to break up crowds trying to gather outside Senegal's National Assembly on Monday to protest against the president's abrupt postponement of elections over the weekend.

As protesters shouted slogans, lawmakers inside the parliament building started debating a bill that would reschedule the Feb. 25 vote to Aug. 25 and extend President Macky Sall's mandate until his successor is installed.

Sall's unprecedented announcement on Saturday pitched the West African nation into uncharted constitutional waters that threaten to further tarnish its reputation as a bastion of democratic stability in a region swept by coups.

Around 100 people gathered outside parliament on Monday, after confrontations on Sunday, chanting "Macky Sall is a dictator".

Authorities temporarily restricted mobile internet access from Sunday night, citing hate messages on social media and threats to public order.

The private Walf television channel said it was taken off air on Sunday and had its licence revoked.

The African Union on Monday joined a chorus of calls from regional bodies and Western governments for a new election date to be set as soon as possible.

Sall said he delayed the election due to a dispute over the candidate list and alleged corruption within the constitutional body that handled the list.

The opposition Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS), whose candidate was barred from running because of dual nationality issues, supports a delay and proposed the postponement bill in parliament before

Sall's announcement.

The F24 platform, a large group of civil society organisations behind past demonstrations, and opposition presidential candidate Khalifa Sall, called it an "institutional coup".

Some presidential contenders said they would push ahead with campaigns meant to kick off over the weekend. Two ex-Dakar mayor Khalifa Sall and another opposition politician, Aly Ngouille - vowed to challenge the postponement in court.

At least two candidates were detained when police in riot gear broke up protests in the capital Dakar on Sunday, firing tear gas and rounding up participants. Another presidential contender was injured and taken to hospital, his team said.

Sall's announcement and the outcry it prompted have raised fears the country could see a repeat of violent protests that have broken out over the past three years over concerns Sall would run for a third term and the alleged political side-lining of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko. — Reuters

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