The Guardian

Senegal's Constitutional Council rejects opposition leader's candidacy for president

Senegal's Constitutional Council on Friday rejected imprisoned opposition leader Ousmane Sonko's candidacy in next month's presidential election, his lawyer said. It comes after years of judicial controversy surrounding the provocative politician.

The 49-year-old, who came third in the 2019 presidential election, is at the center of a bitter conflict with the state that has lasted more than two years and sparked often deadly violence.

Mr Sonko's lawyer, Mr Sile Credor Lee, said his candidacy was rejected because the application was incomplete.

“When we went in, (council) president Badiou Camara immediately informed us that (Mr Sonko's) file was incomplete,” he said.

More than 90 candidates have submitted their names to the Constitutional Council, which is scheduled to announce its list of presidential candidates on January 20th.

President Macky Sall announced in July that he would not seek a third term in the February 25 poll, handpicking Prime Minister Amadou Bah as his coalition's presidential candidate.

Sonko filed his candidacy with the Constitutional Council in December, even though the state refused to provide him with the documents he needed to run.

They claimed Sonko was sentenced to two years in prison in June for morally corrupting young people and was removed from the electoral roll.

Sonko's lawyer said he planned to file his candidacy anyway.

The opposition figure resonates with his Pan-African rhetoric and tough stance against former colonial power France, and has developed a passionate following among Senegal's disaffected youth.

“Election Farce”

On Friday, Mr Sonko's lawyer said that the President of the Constitutional Council had informed Mr Sonko that “the files, accompanying letters and attachments were received and examined by the committee and the committee found that one document was missing and that the candidature file was “We have concluded that it is incomplete,” he said.

Mr Lee denounced the council's decision as an “electoral travesty” and suggested he would file a “statutory appeal” once he received information about the missing documents.

“The composition of the committee was irregular because the law requires that this verification be conducted in the presence of the candidate or his representative,” he said.

“There is a desire to move to an election that lacks transparency from the beginning and in any case does not reflect the will of the people.”

Lee told AFP that the Constitutional Council had not informed Sonko's legal team of the missing documents.

master of firebrand

A day earlier, the opposition lawmaker's chances of running for president were in jeopardy after the Supreme Court upheld his six-month suspended sentence for defamation.

The court's decision also ended a case in which Mr Sonko was sentenced to a hefty fine for defamation and contempt against Tourism Minister Mame Mbaye Niang.

Sonko's campaign argued that he still had the right to stand in the election because a judge in December ordered him back on the electoral roll.

His coalition nominated him as its presidential candidate last Sunday in a closed-door meeting as authorities had banned public gatherings scheduled the day before.

On Friday, Sonko's coalition leaders accused the Constitutional Council of “complicity” in a “conspiracy” to exclude him from the ballot paper.

The firebrand standard bearer has been in jail since late July on a series of other charges, including calling for insurrection, colluding with a terrorist organization and endangering national security.


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