Senegal’s parliament has voted to delay the presidential election to December 15 in a chaotic vote that took place after opposition lawmakers were forcibly removed from the chamber as they debated President Macky Sall’s earlier decision to delay the crucial election.
Sall announced on Saturday that the election, which was scheduled for February 25, would be postponed, pitching the West African nation into uncharted constitutional waters and triggering violent protests.
Parliamentary backing came late on Monday when 105 MPs in the 165-seat assembly voted in favor of the measure, which delays the election until December and keeps Sall in office until his successor is installed.
The president, who has served the maximum two terms, was originally due to leave office on April 2. Sall has said previously that he has no plans to extend his term, but protesters are sceptical. As the lawmakers debated the bill on Monday, security forces fired tear gas at protesters who had gathered outside the parliament in Dakar, burning tyres and criticising Sall.
Opposition leaders had condemned the proposed delay, announced just as campaigning was due to start, as a “constitutional coup” and an assault on democracy.
The mood in parliament was also tense, with some deputies shoving and pushing one another, leading to a temporary recess.
Security forces later stormed the building and forcibly removed several opposition lawmakers who had occupied the central dais and were trying to block the voting process.
At least three of the 20 presidential candidates submitted legal challenges to the delay, Constitutional Council documents showed. Two more candidates have pledged to challenge it via the courts.
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 the delay and proposed the postponement bill in parliament before Sall’s announcement.
The bill passed due to backing from the ruling party and the opposition coalition, which includes the PDS. Other opposition and civil society groups have angrily rejected it, with some saying Sall is trying to postpone his departure.