Presidential elections were scheduled to be held in Senegal on 25 February 2024, but were postponed indefinitely by a decree of the outgoing President Macky Sall on 3 February and postponed by the National Assembly of Senegal to 15 December. On 15 February, the Senegalese Constitutional Council overturned the postponement and ordered elections to proceed as soon as possible, although a date remains unavailable.
The election was initially scheduled to be held on 25 February 2024. Registrations for candidacy opened on October 2023 and ended on 26 December 2023. Pre-campaigning began on 5 January 2024 while the campaign period was set to start on 4 February.
Several parties have announced their intent to run for office in 2024, but they must first receive sufficient support from the general public to pass the sponsorship stage. Any presidential candidate must receive between 0.8 percent and 1 percent of the electorate's signatures. These signatures must be collected with a minimum of 2,000 sponsorships in each of the minimum seven of Senegal's fourteen regions. Candidates can also have the option of receiving sponsorships from at least 13 members of the National Assembly, or 120 mayors and heads of regional councils. A deposit of 30 million CFA francs must also be paid by candidates at the Caisse des dépôts et consignations.
On 17 February 2023, the day before the date was revealed for the upcoming elections, Senegalese opposition candidate Ousmane Sonko, was forcibly taken from his vehicle in the midst of rallies outside a Dakar courthouse where his trial was taking place. Sonko was in court as part of a civil lawsuit against him by Senegal's tourism minister for defamation and public insults.
On 3 July, following a series of protests regarding Sonko's conviction for "immoral behaviour" in a separate case, incumbent president Macky Sall stated that he would not seek re-election for a third term.
On 14 July, Sonko was announced as the presidential candidate for PASTEF. Sonko's eligibility as a candidate was unclear due to him receiving a two-year prison sentence in June 2023, rendering him ineligible to run according to some legal experts; although it was noted he had not exhausted his appeals to the Supreme Court, which could reverse his sentence. On 31 July, PASTEF was ordered dissolved by the Senegalese government, while Sonko undertook a months-long hunger strike in protest over the political situation.
On 19 November, PASTEF designated its secretary-general Bassirou Diomaye Faye as their candidate for the election. Faye had been imprisoned since April 2023, when he was arrested for criticising the conduct of Sonko's defamation trial on social media. In December, a court ordered Sonko's reinstatement to the voters' list and allowed him to file his candidacy.
In January 2024, candidate Thierno Alassane Sall filed a complaint against fellow candidate Karim Wade being of dual French-Senegalese nationality. Wade, a former minister and the son of former president Abdoulaye Wade, subsequently renounced his French citizenship.
In January, the National Assembly created a commission of inquiry responsible for monitoring the electoral process.
On 3 February, Macky Sall announced that he had repealed the decree setting 25 February as the date of the presidential election, after the establishment of a parliamentary commission investigating two judges of the Constitutional Council whose integrity in the electoral process is contested.
On 18 February, the Senegalese government announced an end to the parliamentary commission of inquiry created to clarify the invalidation of Karim Wade's candidacy, citing the opening of a judicial investigation over the matter.
A total of 93 people registered to run for president before the Senegalese Constitutional Council. The list of candidates was narrowed down as the body examined the sponsorship of would-be candidates until 10 January 2024 before moving on to scrutinize other relevant documents. Many candidates were rejected due to missing documents, insufficient sponsors or sponsors supporting more than one candidate, including former prime ministers Aminata Toure and Cheikh Hadjibou Soumaré, as well as Macky Sall's brother-in-law Adama Faye. This prompted Toure and 27 other candidates to collectively criticise the sponsorship control system.
On 20 January, the Senegalese Constitutional Council published the final list of candidates for the presidential election. It was made up of 20 candidates including Ba, former prime ministers Idrissa Seck and Mahammed Boun Abdallah Dionne, the former mayor of Dakar Khalifa Sall and Bassirou Diomaye Faye, who is still in prison pending a trial. Two women were also cleared to run, namely gynaecologist Rose Wardini and entrepreneur Anta Babacar Ngom. The candidacies of Ousmane Sonko and Karim Wade were not validated, with the council citing Sonko's six-month suspended sentence for defamation that was upheld by the Senegalese Supreme Court on 4 January and Wade's renunciation of his French citizenship being "not retroactive" and his sworn declaration of the renunciation being "inexact". Wade's exclusion prompted the 25 MPs of his Senegalese Democratic Party to call for an inquiry in the National Assembly over Wade's and other candidates' exclusion.
On 28 January, Sonko released a video on social media formally recognizing Bassirou Diomaye Faye as his replacement in the election.
On 19 February, Rose Wardini renounced her candidacy following controversy over her dual Franco-Senegalese nationality.
On 3 February, hours before campaigning was about to start, President Macky Sall ordered the indefinite postponement of the election, citing a parliamentary investigation into two judges of the Constitutional Court over their integrity with regards to the electoral process that was launched following Karim Wade's exclusion from the elections and warning of adverse affects on the "credibility of the election by creating the seeds of pre- and post-electoral litigation". Sall also claimed that some of the official candidates held dual-citizenship. This is the first postponement of a presidential election in the country's history. Under the Senegalese election code, at least 80 days must pass between publication of the decree setting the date and the election, making the next possible date for an election to be held in late April.
The postponement was welcomed by Wade's Democratic Party, which requested the postponement, while candidates Thierno Alassane Sall, who called the postponement "high treason," Khalifa Sall and Déthié Fall announced that they would start their campaign as originally scheduled, while candidate Habib Sy said that all opposition candidates had agreed to launch their campaigns together as scheduled. Rejected candidate Aminata Touré called the decision "sabotage". Abdou Latif Coulibaly, the Secretary General of Sall's government and its concurrent spokesman, announced his resignation, saying that he wanted to have "full and complete freedom" to defend his political convictions.
On 4 February, police in Dakar fired tear gas to disperse demonstrators protesting against the postponement and arrested Aminata Touré and candidate Anta Babacar Ngom, who had attended one of the rallies after all 19 opposition candidates called for supporters to gather in the streets, including at a major roundabout and in front of the National Assembly. Authorities also suspended and later revoked the broadcasting license of the private television channel Walf TV for its coverage of the protests, calling it an "incitement to violence". Protesters were seen chanting "Macky Sall, dictator!" and establishing makeshift barricades, burning tyres and throwing rocks at police. The Ministry of Communication, Telecommunications and Digital Economy shut off mobile internet access on 5 February, citing "the dissemination of several hateful and subversive messages relayed on social networks in the context of threats and disturbances to public order." Three people were killed during protests against the postponement in Saint-Louis, Dakar and Ziguinchor. Protests were also held in Diourbel.
In a heated session on 5 February that saw some opposition deputies removed by security forces after they tried to block proceedings, the National Assembly voted in favor of a proposal to formally postpone the elections until 15 December. The measure, which needed the support of at least three-fifths (99) of the chamber's 165 deputies to pass, was approved by 105 members and rejected by only one MP, and prompted renewed protests outside the National Assembly that were suppressed by police using tear gas. Two opposition parties subsequently filed an appeal to the Constitutional Council urging it to direct "the continuation of the electoral process." Fourteen opposition candidates also filed an appeal to the council, with two others pledging to challenge the postponement in court. Three lawmakers who were affiliated with PASTEF were briefly arrested on 6 February.
In response to the postponement and subsequent protests, former presidents Abdou Diouf and Abdoulaye Wade called on Macky Sall to organise the "national dialogue he has announced, without delay." They also called on protesters to "immediately end the violence."
The French foreign ministry called on Senegalese authorities "to end the uncertainty about the electoral calendar so the vote can be held as soon as possible." The US State Department also urged "all participants in (the) electoral process to engage peacefully to swiftly set a new date and the conditions for a timely, free and fair election". US Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Ben Cardin said the postponement put Senegal "on a dangerous path towards dictatorship, and must not be allowed to stand."
ECOWAS called on authorities to "expedite the various processes to set a new date for the elections", while African Union commission chair Moussa Faki Mahamat urged a resolution of the political crisis "through consultation, understanding and dialogue" and called on authorities to "organise the elections as quickly as possible, in transparency, in peace and national harmony". The European Union also said the postponement had opened a "period of uncertainty" and called "for the staging of a transparent, inclusive and credible election as soon as possible." United Nations Human Rights Office spokesperson Liz Throssell said any decision to postpone the elections should be "based on broad-based consultations." On 8 February, foreign ministers of ECOWAS member states held an emergency session in Abuja, Nigeria, to discuss the situation in Senegal. On 12 February, an ECOWAS delegation arrived in the country to attempt to help mediate.
The Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the Senegalese government's shutdown of Walf TV.
Overturning of postponement
On 15 February, the Senegalese Constitutional Council ruled that the decision to postpone and reschedule the election by Macky Sall and the National Assembly was "contrary to the constitution" and ordered its cancellation. However, it also acknowledged that holding the election as originally scheduled on 25 February was no longer feasible, and urged the government to act immediately. In response, presidential spokesperson Yoro Dia said that Sall would comply with the decision, but did not give a new date for it to be held. In a televised interview on 22 February, Sall said that he would leave office as scheduled on 2 April, but said that he would hold talks first with political leaders to determine a new timetable for the elections. He also expressed his willingness to release Ousmane Sonko as an act of good faith. His proposal for a dialogue was rejected on 23 February by the Aar Sunu Election (Protect Our Election) collective composed of 40 civil society groups, which called it "unacceptable" and an "attempt at diversion".
During the week that the postponement was overturned, several hundred political prisoners were released by the government. At a protest in Dakar on 17 February, opposition candidate Malick Gakou called for the election to be held in March to ensure the departure of Macky Sall from the presidency as previously scheduled on 2 April. A total of 15 candidates have called for elections to be held before 2 April. On the original date of the elections on 25 February, candidates held a mock vote with them slipping ballot papers into a box bearing the words "RIP 25 February."
During a national dialogue in Diamniadio that was boycotted by the opposition and was attended only by Amadou Ba and another candidate on 26 February, Macky Sall announced that elections would be held before the start of the rainy season in July, and reiterated his commitment to leave office as scheduled in April. He also introduced a bill proposing a general amnesty for political prisoners who had been held since 2021. In response, Aar Sunu Election, which also boycotted the proceedings, called for a general strike on 27 February. On the second and final day of the national dialogue on 27 February, a panel composed of civil, political and religious leaders proposed holding the presidential elections on 2 June, and recommended a review of the disqualification of Karim Wade and other presidential candidates.