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EU welcomes Senegal’s election observation invitation: Democratic tradition and respect for rights

At the invitation of the Senegalese authorities, the European Union has decided to deploy an electoral observation mission (EOM) to Senegal to observe the progress of the presidential election on February 25, 2024. This comes after President Macky Sall (pictured) was widely praised for his decision not to stand for a third term, but instead to instruct his government to ensure fair and transparent elections, writes James Wilson.

The EU had already deployed EOMs in 2012 and 2019, as well as an electoral monitoring mission in 2022. Josep Borrell, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, appointed Malin Björk, Member of the European Parliament, as chief observer for this mission.

High Representative Josep Borrell underlined: “The invitation from the authorities to observe the progress of the next presidential election is a new concrete testimony to the solidity of the partnership which links Senegal and the EU. Senegal’s long democratic tradition provides a solid basis for ensuring respect for the rights and freedoms of all Senegalese throughout the electoral process. Under the leadership of Chief Observer, Malin Björk, the EU EOM will produce a detailed assessment , independent and impartial of the electoral process.”

President Sall’s stance bucks the regional trend of leaders using constitutional changes as an excuse to reset their mandate and extend their hold on power. He explained his decision in 2023, “My dear fellow citizens, my decision after long consideration is to not be a candidate in the election on February 25, 2024. Senegal is more than just me, it’s full of people capable of taking Senegal to the next level.” His announcement was praised by neighbouring leaders, the African Union, the USA, and former colonial power France, whose foreign ministry hailed it as “proof” of the solidity of Senegalese democracy.

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His presidency has been known for further strengthening democratic institutions, with Senegal becoming renowned as a democratic beacon in a continent increasingly plagued by coups and leaders who retain their grip on power long after their constitutional term limits. President Sall has also stood firmly on the side of democracy in the region, beyond Senegal’s own borders.  For example when hosting his annual Dakar International Forum on Peace and Security in Africa, he decided not to invite representatives of the region’s governments that had recently emerged from coups, including those of Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso and Niger.

Malin Björk, Chief Observer, said about the mission to Senegal: “It is an honour for me to lead the EU EOM in Senegal. Through this Mission, we hope to contribute to the achievement of a transparent and inclusive electoral process. We will present the main results and recommendations of our Mission in a constructive manner at the end of our mandate, thus contributing to identifying avenues to increase the democratic quality of future electoral processes in the country.”

The core team of the electoral observation mission, made up of nine analysts, will arrive in Dakar around mid-January. The team will remain in the country until the end of the electoral process. It will then prepare a final report and recommendations for possible reforms.

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Shortly after its arrival, the core team will be joined by thirty-two long-term observers, who will be deployed throughout the country. Sixty-four short-term observers will strengthen these teams and will also be deployed throughout the country as the election date approaches. The EU EOM has stated it also looks forward to cooperating with other international and national observation missions present in the country.

One employee at a Brussels-based democracy group said: “President Macky Sall’s move, not only to stand down, but also to invite the world in to see the fair and free elections for themselves further cements Senegal’s reputation as a democracy and solidifies its democratic institutions. Many of us harbour hopes that Senegal will also inspire a better year for Africa, with regard to democracy and respect for the rule of law and term limits.”

James Wilson is a Brussels-based independent freelance journalist and regular contributor to EU Reporter.

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