Scuffles broke out in Dakar on Friday as Senegalese police blocked off access to the home of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko after he called for protests, at a time when the country is in the grip of pre-election tension. Roads leading to Sonko’s home in an upmarket district of the capital Dakar were closed off by barricades and police in anti-riot gear. Supporters who tried to get near the building were firmly told to turn back, AFP reporters saw. At midday, police prevented Sonko from going to Friday prayers, while several violent incidents were reported on social media. Videos circled showing young people burning tyres and knocking over street vendors’ kiosks on a major road. “Even our freedom to worship has been violated today,” said Sonko, who was dressed in traditional boubou prayer clothes. He said he did not personally blame the police officers who were ordered to block him into his home but accused authorities of giving into “panic”. Sonko, who came third in the 2019 presidential election, had called for a protest on Friday against a decision to bar a list of candidates for Senegal’s legislative elections on July 31. The move also bans him and other opposition figures from contesting the ballot. He and his allies had vowed to push ahead with the demonstration on Friday, despite a ban on the rally announced by the prefect on public order grounds. “The demonstration is on. It will definitely take place,” Ousseynou Ly, spokesman for Sonko’s PASTEF party, told AFP. The Place de la Nation, the vast esplanade where the demonstration was scheduled for 3:00 pm, was blocked by police. Some figures have appealed for dialogue. They pointed out that around a dozen people died when violence erupted in March last year after Sonko was accused of sexual assault. Neither the authorities nor the opposition have shown willingness to compromise. Political analysts generally describe the situation as a political stalemate. The candidates’ list, put forward by an opposition coalition called Yewwi Askan Wi, was scratched on the orders of the interior ministry on technical grounds. One of the names on the list had been accidentally put down both as a first-choice candidate and as an alternate candidate. The country’s highest court, the Constitutional Council, confirmed the ministry’s decision. Senegal has a reputation as a beacon of stability in West Africa, where political turbulence is common. The parliament has 165 seats. Of these, 53 are chosen on the basis of national lists and 97 on the basis of a majority vote among the country’s departments. Fifteen are chosen by the Senegalese diaspora. The ban on Yewwi Askan Wi’s list applies specifically to first-choice candidates for seats contested by national lists. The coalition can still compete using alternate candidates. Sonko says the bar is the result of political interference, a charge rejected by the government.