A riot police officer talks to a man during clashes with supporters of Senegal opposition leader Ousmane Sonko after Sonko was sentenced to prison, in Dakar, Senegal, June 3, 2023. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

Violent protests in Senegal against the postponement of presidential elections have spread across the country, with the first fatality reported.

A student died in clashes with police on Friday in the northern city of Saint-Louis, an opposition leader and a local hospital source said.

In the capital Dakar, security forces fired tear gas to disperse the crowds.

The 25 February elections were delayed until 15 December, with President Macky Sall denying clinging on to power. 

Mr Sall had earlier called off the polls indefinitely, arguing this was needed to resolve a dispute over the eligibility of presidential candidates.

Lawmakers later extended Mr Sall’s mandate by 10 months.

Opponents of the move have warned that Senegal’s reputation as a bastion of democracy in an unstable region of West Africa is on the line.

Opposition leader Khalifa Sall, who is not related to the president, earlier called the election delay a “constitutional coup”.

Mr Sall said he was ready to step down, but wanted to leave the country stable and peaceful. 

West Africa’s regional bloc Ecowas on Tuesday pleaded for Senegal’s political class to “take steps urgently to restore the electoral calendar” in line with the constitution.

Senegal has long been seen as one of the most stable democracies in West Africa. It is the only country in mainland West Africa that has never had a military coup. 

It has had three largely peaceful handovers of power and never delayed a presidential election.


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