Senegal yesterday increased the fees presidential candidates must pay to contest the February vote to 65 million CFA Francs from 25 million to discourage people it said were only in it for “show”.
Candidates who receive five percent or more of the votes cast will get the cash refunded, but less popular candidates will see the money go to the public treasury, said Tanor Thiendella Fall, director of Senegal’s elections.
“We found it necessary to discourage those (candidates) whose only aim is to show up,” Fall said.
The 65 million CFA francs amount has irked some in the opposition and public who see it as an attempt by octogenarian president Abdoulaye Wade to hamstring the opposition.
“Is democracy only for rich people?” asked 37-year-old carpenter Ousmane Diop, commenting on the fee hike.
The average income in Senegal is about US$1,850 per year.
“This amount of deposit is just aimed at creating a distraction from the main issue which is: President (Abdoulaye) Wade cannot seek a third term,” said Cheikh Tidiane Gadio, who was Wade’s foreign minister for nine years but now leads the Luy Jot Jotna opposition party.
Legal opinion has been growing against Wade’s plan to run in 2012 months before a legal body will rule on whether his bid, which has already sparked street protests, was valid.
Senegal’s constitution allows presidents to only serve two terms but Wade’s camp argues changes made in 2001 meant his first term, from 2000-2007 does not count.
Wade’s opponents suspect he plans to secure re-election and then hand over to his son Karim, who heads a “super ministry” despite never having won any form of election.
Wade father and son have both firmly denied such a plan.