Idrissa Seck exits Senegal economic council to run for president

Seck, who placed second in the 2019 presidential election, condemns the recent unrest in the country and calls for fellow opposition figure Sonko to be allowed to also run in 2024.

Idrissa Seck (C) gives a speech in Dakar on February 28, 2019
Idrissa Seck, centre, has announced his intention to run for Senegal's presidency for a fourth time [Carmen Abd Ali / AFP]

Senegal’s presidency has announced it has released politician Idrissa Seck from his duties as head of the Economic, Social and Environmental Council, paving the way for the former prime minister to run for the presidency in the February election.

Seck, 63, placed second in the 2019 presidential race with 21 percent of the vote, after which his Rewmi party joined the ruling Benno Bokk Yakaar coalition with President Macky Sall.

Seck announced his decision to resign from the council and run again on Saturday, joining another former prime minister, Aminata Toure, and opposition leader Ousmane Sonko as declared candidates.

His candidacy also means withdrawing his party from the ruling coalition. It is unclear how this will affect Benno Bokk Yakaar’s slender majority in parliament.

Political tensions are running high. Sall’s refusal to rule out running for a third term has fuelled sometimes violent demonstrations. Senegal’s constitution only allows two terms, but some fear Sall will use a recent tweak to the constitution to reset his mandate.

Another contentious issue has been court proceedings against Sonko. His supporters say they are politically motivated to stymie his presidential bid. Sonko has faced libel charges brought against him by the tourism minister, whom Sonko accused of stealing $47m from a government agency.

The 48-year-old also faces separate charges of raping a beauty salon employee and making death threats to her in 2021. He has denied wrongdoing.

Seck condemned the unrest as he declared his candidacy and said he believed Sonko should be allowed to run.

“We can disagree openly in Senegal, but we should never force our brothers and sisters into silence through persecution, one-track thinking, intellectual terrorism and violence,” he said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies