Senegal rule change may ease Wade re-election


Senegal President Abdoulaye Wade could win re-election with as little as 25 percent of a first round vote instead of a majority, according to official proposals published in a pro-government newspaper.

The proposal has raised the hackles of Wade’s rivals in the typically quiet West African state, who say it will make it easier for Wade to secure victory in next February’s election, which pits him against a fractured opposition.

Senegal is an oasis of stability in a turbulent region, having enjoyed decades of democracy. But the run-up to the election is likely to be tense due to grievances over poor public services, the high cost of living and rows over whether 84-year-old Wade should even stand, Reuters reports.

Opposition parties have been aiming to prevent Wade securing an overall majority in the first round, and then unite around an anti-Wade candidate in a second round run-off.

But analysts say Wade, as the incumbent running against a divided opposition, would have little difficulty in securing at least 25 percent in the first round.
“A (candidate) will be declared elected if he wins with at least 25 percent of the vote (in the first round),” read a draft of the law published in the pro-government Le Soleil newspaper on Saturday.

Wade himself was elected in 2000 after coming second in the first round with 31 percent, then winning an overall majority in the run-off.

The proposal is likely to sail through the majority-controlled parliament in the coming days.
“We will wage an all-out campaign and demonstrate before the presidential palace and at (Dakar’s main square),” Alioune Tine, leader of the Dakar-based rights group RADDHO, told Reuters on Monday. “What president Wade wants to do is a ‘coup d’etat’ against the constitution.”

Macky Sall, a leading opposition candidate and former prime minister of Wade’s, also called for resistance.
“The people should react to this decision. Confrontation is unavoidable, the army should take up its responsibilities,” he said, without giving an details.

A coalition of 35 opposition parties said it too would take action in coming days.

Wade has been accused by his critics of trying to tighten his grip on power and prepare for a possible succession by his son through the establishment of the post of vice-president.

There have also been months of debate over whether Wade, who will be completing his second mandate, should be allowed to stand in next year’s election.

Critics say a third term would be illegal due to term limits. His camp says changes to the constitution during the first term meant it should not count and he should be allowed to stand for another seven-year term.