Senegalese leaders propose June elections after court rejects president's 10 month delay

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DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — A group of Senegalese civic and religious leaders proposed holding elections in early June, the first new date offered since the president attempted to push elections back to the end of the year.

President Macky Sall who faces term limits at the end of his second terms, said in early February he was postponing an election for 10 months, just weeks before it was set to take place on Feb. 25.

But Senegal’s highest election authority, the Constitutional Council, rejected that move and ordered the government to set a new election date as soon as possible.

Sall called for a two-day national dialogue earlier this week, aiming at fostering trust among the candidates and the population. Civil, political and religious leaders attended, but almost all of the candidates on the ballot refused to participate. On Tuesday, the panel proposed holding the vote on June 2.

Sall has said that he will step down by April 2, which is the end of his current term, but it's unclear who will take over if elections are not held before that.

Senegal has been seen as a rare stable democracy in a region rife with coups. The delay of the vote has sparked deadly protests across the country.

The panel called for the Constitutional Council to review decisions that blocked candidates including Karim Wade, an opposition leader and son of former Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, from the ballot.

The election authority disqualified Wade because he previously held dual citizenship. He renounced his French nationality in order to run.

Sall has defended his decision to delay elections, but has accepted the Council's ruling and attempted to calm the situation. At the launch of the dialogue he said he would propose a general amnesty law addressing the protests, in which hundreds of people were jailed.

It wasn’t immediately clear who would be freed if the amnesty was enacted or how it might affect Ousmane Sonko, a popular opposition leader who is currently in jail.