DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Senegal's electoral commission on Tuesday asked that sponsorship forms be given to main opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, whose candidacy for the upcoming presidential election has been called into question over the past year amid a series of criminal charges.
The move comes as Sonko remains hospitalized because of a hunger strike he began earlier this month and as he awaits a decision from a West African regional court. The ECOWAS Court of Justice said that it would render its verdict next week on Senegal's dissolution of Sonko's political party.
Senegal's Interior Ministry removed Sonko from the voter rolls after his conviction earlier this year on charges of corrupting youth. However, the decision was later overturned by a judge in the southern city of Ziguinchor, where Sonko serves as mayor.
In a statement Tuesday the electoral commission said that Sonko “must enjoy his status as a registered voter with all the rights attached thereto."
Sonko finished third in the last presidential election, and his supporters believe that the slew of criminal allegations brought against him since 2021 are part of an orchestrated campaign to derail his political aspirations ahead of a presidential election in February.
In June, Sonko was acquitted on charges of raping a woman who worked at a massage parlor and making death threats against her. But he was convicted of corrupting youth and sentenced to two years in prison, which ignited deadly protests across the country.
In late July, Senegalese authorities formally dissolved Sonko’s political party and placed him in detention. He is now facing charges of calling for insurrection, conspiracy against the state and other alleged crimes.