Senegalese go to the polls on February 24, 2019 in the first round of general elections with seven candidates shortlisted for the presidential vote. Agency reports said the Constitutional Council on January 8, 2019 tentatively approved six candidates to run against incumbent President Macky Sall under new rules that require each contender to provide 53,000 endorsement signatures by registered voters from across the country.
Out of the 27 who submitted papers, seven were retained – Madické Niang, a former member of the opposition PDS party of exPresident Abdoulaye Wade, Idrissa Seck of REWMI, Macky Sall of the ruling APR party, Ousmane Sonko of PASTEF, Issa Sall, PUR, Karim Wade, PDS and Khalifa Sall, Taxawu Senegaal. Legal experts were however quick to warn that the candidacies of Karim Wade and Khalifa Sall are not a given as the two have tainted criminal records.
The next step is for the Constitutional Council to verify other details about the shortlisted candidates who must be of Senegalese nationality only, be registered voters, fulfil financial requirements related to forthcoming election, as well check as their criminal records. The Council is expected to publish another shortlist of retained candidates by the end of this week. Those eliminated will then have the opportunity to appeal. The final list of presidential candidates is due to be published by January 20, 2019 – 35 days before the first round of the election on February 24, 2019.
Parliament on April 20, 2018 passed the bill setting a higher bar for presidential candidates, increasing the number of signatures candidates must collect from registered voters in order to stand for president. Some 53 000 signatures are required in at least seven of the country’s 14 regions, with a minimum of 2,000 in each.
The authorities justified the change by saying they feared a huge increase in the number of presidential candidates in a country with nearly 300 parties. “No democracy can hold a presidential election without screening,” Justice Minister Ismaila Madior Fall argued at the time, describing the bill as a move to “clean up democracy.” But the opposition called it a “constitutional coup d’état meant to prevent opposition candidates from contesting.” A later modification to the electoral law barred presidential candidates convicted for more than five years from running.