Senegal’s government on Monday restricted access to the mobile internet as opposition leaders and supporters launched protests against President Macky Sall’s decision to postpone the Feb. 25 presidential election over an electoral dispute.
Federal lawmakers were set to debate a bill that recommends an election delay of up to six months. It would put the next likely election date in August, four months after Sall’s tenure is due to end.
Senegal’s presidential election has never been postponed. Protests that erupted on Sunday were expected to continue after opposition leaders condemned the election postponement as a “constitutional coup.”
The Ministry of Communication, Telecommunications and Digital Economy said the internet was cut “due to the dissemination of several hateful and subversive messages relayed on social networks in the context of threats and disturbances to public order.”
Sall on Saturday cited a dispute between the judiciary and parliament over the disqualification of some candidates and the reported dual nationality of some qualified candidates.
Senegal has been embroiled in political tensions for at least a year, including deadly clashes among opposition supporters and the disqualification of two opposition leaders whom the country’s highest election authority said did not meet election requirements.
Senegalese authorities in June last year also cut internet access on mobile phones when supporters of disqualified opposition leader Ousmane Sonko clashed with security forces.
Analysts say the crisis in Senegal could further threaten West Africa’s stability at a time when the region is struggling with a recent surge in coups and threats to democratic institutions.