Khalifa Sall and Karim Wade, convicted of economic crimes in 2018 and 2015, respectively, are eligible as presidential candidates for the February 2024 election after Senegalese MPs voted in favour of an electoral law revision, which re-establishes civic and political rights for those previously deemed ineligible to vote due to imprisonment or fines.
Sections L28 and L29 of the law banned those convicted to a “sentence exceeding three months of prison without probation or more than six months with probation” from voting lists.
However, the reform allows these citizens to be reintegrated into the electoral roll “five years after the completion of the sentence duration”.
Consensus for reform was reached during the national political dialogue in late May between the ruling coalition Benno Bokk Yakaar and the majority of the opposition political formations.
The amendment allows the leader of Taxawu Senegal and former mayor of Dakar, Khalifa Sall, and Karim Wade, son of former president Abdoulaye Wade, to run as candidates to succeed President Macky Sall.
The new provisions, voted in by 124 votes (1 against and 0 abstentions), also make the rehabilitation of persons convicted for crimes, drug trafficking and offences related to public funds possible.
These individuals were previously permanently banned from electoral lists, but can be added to the voters’ roll if they receive an amnesty measure or, in the case of a pardon, “after the expiry of the corresponding period of the sentence duration if it is a prison sentence”.
However, those concerned will have to wait another three years if they have also been sentenced to pay a fine.
Reducing the sponsorship rates
The participation of Khalifa Sall and Karim Wade in the election – although pardoned in 2019 and 2016, respectively – was far from guaranteed due to their convictions for “forgery in commercial writing and fraud related to public funds”, and for public funds embezzlement and a fine of 138bn CFA francs ($230m), respectively.
The adoption of the new law also aimed to incorporate provisions of a constitutional reform two weeks earlier – during an extraordinary session of the Assembly – which confirmed the reduction of the sponsorship rate to a minimum of 0.6% and a maximum of 0.8% of the electorate, as well as the ability to resort to sponsorship by elected officials: 13 MPs or 120 mayors and presidents of the departmental council.
The reform also establishes a maximum ceiling for the deposit amount that the various presidential candidates must pay. Which “cannot exceed the sum of 30 million CFA francs”.
While Macky Sall has to put the new election rules in place within the next 15 days, the political future of Ousmane Sonko, his main rival, is uncertain. Sonko was sentenced, in absentia, to two years imprisonment for “corrupting the youth”.
The sentence is part of the case against Sonko involving Adji Sarr, a beauty salon masseuse.
Sonko leads Senegal’s African Patriots for Work, Ethics, and Brotherhood party, which has recently been disbanded.
On 31 July, he was jailed after being charged with seven crimes, including “inciting an uprising”, “undermining state security”, “criminal association linked to a terrorist enterprise” and “conspiracy against state authority”.
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