(Bloomberg) -- Political, religious and civic leaders in Senegal proposed that the country hold presidential elections in June, a recommendation that aims at ending weeks of instability in the West African nation. 

The proposal was made after two days of talks in the capital, Dakar, and will need the approval of President Macky Sall, whose second term is due to end on April 2. Sall has said he wants to step down at the end of his mandate.  

“We proposed the elections should be held on June 2,” Pape Ibrahima Diagne, a prominent religious leader in Dakar who participated in the talks, said by phone. “The president will stay in power until his successor takes over.”

The election was originally scheduled for Feb. 25 but Sall called it off, saying a postponement was necessary to avert tensions over the verification of presidential candidates. Lawmakers approved a constitutional change to facilitate the delay, which sparked violent protests, but that was ruled unlawful by the nation’s Constitutional Council. 

The wrangling over the election date has scarred Senegal’s reputation as one of Africa’s most stable democracies and weighed on investor sentiment — its bonds have been among the worst emerging-market performers this year. The country is on the verge of becoming an oil and gas producer, and the International Monetary Fund expects its economy to expand more than 8% in 2024.  

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Sall convened the talks to chart a way forward, but they were boycotted by 17 of the 19 presidential candidates, who filed a complaint against him at the Constitutional Council. The nation’s top court had said the election should take place as soon as possible, without specifying a date. A spokesman at the presidency didn’t respond to a text message seeking comment.

Senegal’s constitution states that the office of the president passes to the parliamentary speaker in the event of a vacancy and fresh elections must be held within 90 days. The nation’s laws provide for a campaign spanning three weeks and prescribes for a vote to be held at least one month before the president’s term expires.

The presidential candidates who were approved to run by the Constitutional Council will be retained, while the files of those who were rejected will be reviewed, according to notes shared by El Hajd Malick Mbaye, another participant in the talks. That could pave the way for Karim Wade, the son of former President Abdoulaye Wade, to stand.

Ousmane Sonko, 49, who was seen as the biggest threat to the ruling coalition’s candidate, Prime Minister Amadou Ba, was disqualified from running after he was convicted of making libelous statements against the tourism minister. 

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“I would’ve preferred an earlier date, but this is a dialog. We have to discuss, we have to make concessions and we have to move forward,” said Philippe Abraham Biram Tine, a Senegalese church leader. While Sall can agree to the suggested date or propose an alternative, “the Constitutional Council will have the final say,” he said.

 

(Updates with fallout of political uncertainty in fourth paragraph.)

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