Senegal Court Revokes Ruling That Put Sonko Back on Voter Roll

(Bloomberg) -- Ousmane Sonko’s participation in next year’s presidential elections remains in limbo after a Dakar court overturned a ruling to reintegrate the opposition leader on the electoral roll.

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The Supreme Court revoked a previous ruling in the town of Ziguinchor, where Sonko’s the mayor, and referred the case to a lower court, according to Sonko’s legal counsel.

“For now my client remains off the electoral roll, meaning he can’t run,” Said Larifou said on Friday.

The ruling is another setback for Sonko’s 2024 presidential bid.

A West African court earlier on Friday ruled that Senegal didn’t violate Sonko’s rights when it dissolved his party, stating that his right to participate in the election hadn’t been infringed.

Sonko, who’s been detained by the Senegalese authorities since July, sought the ruling against the dissolution of his party as part of an attempt to file the paperwork he needs to participate in the Feb. 25 vote.

Senegalese authorities removed his name after his conviction earlier this year on charges of corrupting a minor.

Senegal, one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies, is on the cusp of becoming a major oil and gas producer, and investors are watching the race to succeed President Macky Sall for indications on policy continuity. The nation’s dollar bonds have outperformed most emerging-market peers this year, with a total return of 5.1% compared with the developing-nation average of 2.4%, according to Bloomberg indexes.

Once considered the biggest threat to Senegal’s ruling Benno Bokk Yakaar coalition, Sonko has faced a succession of legal setbacks over the past two years. His candidacy has been in limbo after being convicted of publicly insulting a minister and facing charges of plotting an insurrection, criminal conspiracy and spreading fake news.

Sonko, 49, has denied any wrongdoing through his lawyers. He sees the charges brought against him as an attempt to bar him from the race and pave the way for Sall’s anointed successor, Prime Minister Amadou Ba, to become president. The government has denied the charges are politically motivated.

Read more: African Opposition Leaders Move to Halt Senegal Democracy Slide

Presidential candidates have until Dec. 10 to collect at least 40,000 signatures from citizens, or 13 endorsements from lawmakers. For Sonko it’s a race against time to obtain sponsorships or risk being permanently excluded from the presidential race.

“I think they’ll speed up the process. It’s possible we’ll be back in court already next week,” Larifou said.

The February vote will be the first in Senegal’s post-colonial history in which the incumbent isn’t a candidate.

Sonko was sent back to prison this week after being hospitalized following a second hunger strike over the conditions of his detention.

--With assistance from Robert Brand and Moses Mozart Dzawu.

(Recasts with Senegal Supreme Court ruling.)

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