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Senegal police fire tear gas at protest against election postponement

Senegal police fire tear gas at protest against election postponement
A demonstrator waves a Senegalese national flag during protests in support of main opposition   -  
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Leo Correa/Copyright 2021 The AP. All rights reserved.


Senegal's National Assembly faced turmoil on Monday as riot police deployed tear gas to disperse protesters angered by the postponement of the Feb. 25 presidential election.

The unprecedented move to reschedule the election to Aug. 25 and extend President Macky Sall's mandate prompted unrest and criticism.

Lawmakers are set to debate the bill proposing the election delay, marking a departure from Senegal's history of election stability.

The African Union, along with regional bodies and Western governments, called for a swift announcement of a new election date. Riot police outside the parliament used tear gas and made arrests to quell around 100 protesters.

A widespread public outcry over the postponement has raised concerns the country will face violent protests like those that have intermittently broken out over concerns Sall would run for a third term and the alleged political sidelining of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko.

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.

Several prominent opposition figures, including Sonko, were barred from running for president, stoking discontent about the election process.

However, there has been strong pushback against the delay, which some opposition and civil society groups have called an "institutional coup". Some contenders have said they would still push ahead with campaigns meant to kick off over the weekend. Others have vowed to challenge the postponement in court.

At least two female presidential candidates were detained when police in riot gear broke up protests in the capital Dakar on Sunday, firing tear gas and rounding up participants.

The authorities also took local television channel Walf off air on Sunday and revoked its licence, Walf said in a statement.

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