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Radio France Internationale
Radio France Internationale
Melissa Chemam with RFI

Symbolic votes replace real polls as Senegalese declare a day of 'mourning' for democracy

A woman casts her vote at a mock voting station set up by members of the civil society and religions leaders group Aar Sunu Election (Protect Our Election) for people to exercise their right to vote in Dakar on 25 February 2024. AFP - JOHN WESSELS

Dakar, Senegal – Since 1978, presidential elections have always taken place in Senegal in February. This Sunday was the first time that this tradition was not observed. However, voters didn't want to stay home. Instead they took part in symbolic voting by turning up at their polling stations.

The civil society group 'Senegal Vote' invited citizens to go to the polls... even though they couldn't vote.

"Deprived of their presidential election, the Senegalese people are organising their vote!" the group posted on social media.

"This Sunday, February 25, 2024, go to your voting center, take a photo of yourself to demonstrate your presence and share this with all your networks."

And many answered the call, including candidates like Anta Babacar, and some journalists.

Amy Ndao Fall and Awa Mbow Kane, both doctors, went to a simulated polling station in Dakar organised by the citizen collective Aar Sunu Election ("Let's preserve our election") on the day the Senegalese were supposed to vote.

They told RFI that "voting has always been part of their culture".

Others compared the political deadlock to the Covid crisis, which had had a masive negative impact on Senegal's economy.

Poster from Dakar, Senegal, published on the day the presidential election was supposed to take place, 25 February 2024 © RFI/Melissa Chemam

Some candidates met at the headquarters of Taxaawu candidate, Khalifa Sall.

“Today is a dark day for our democracy," he told the guests. "Senegal is a cracked democracy because, for the first time, we are touching on this myth that was the presidential election.”

According to a note from the Interior Ministry, talks to set a new date for Senegal's presidential vote will start on Monday at 4pm.

Sixteen presidential candidates have already said they are refusing to take part in this dialogue.

The national dialogue should also determine how the country will be governed after Macky Sall steps down and until elections are held.

"We want to vote," a voter told AFP. "Before 2 April, it is obligatory. This endless campaign, these demonstrations, all these people killed for years... We must turn this page and get back to work."

(with AFP)

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