Senegalese voters back shorter presidential terms

Reforms put forward in referendum will see the maximum period for a president in office cut from seven to five years.

Senegal''s President Macky Sall addresses a joint news conference with European Council President Donald Tusk and Malta''s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat at the end of the Valletta Summit on Migration
Sall was elected in 2012 saying he would cut the presidential term from seven years to five [Darrin Zammit Lupi/Reuters]

Voters in Senegal have approved constitutional reforms including a reduction of presidential terms, the electoral commission announced on Wednesday.

The pro-government “Yes” vote in Sunday’s referendum won 62.7 percent of ballots from a national turnout of 38.3 percent, election commission president Demba Kandji said.


The changes, proposed by President Macky Sall, reduce presidential terms to five years from seven, starting after the next election in 2019.

They also limit the age of presidential candidates to 75 and allow independents to run.

Sall, who was elected in 2012, made the proposals arguing that they would bring the West African country in line with international norms and further bolster its already stable democracy.

Yet, the 54-year-old president has been criticised for not proposing to cut his own first term, as he had pledged to do before he was elected – Sall plans to see out his seven years in office, until 2019.  

READ MORE: Senegal considers veil ban as Boko Haram fears escalate

Before the referendum, opposition parties and several civil society groups had urged Senegalese to say “No”, arguing that Sall has reneged on his promise and criticising the vote as a cop-out.

The results now face approval by Senegal’s constitutional court.

OPINION: End ‘third term-ism’ in Africa

In the past year, leaders of other African countries, including Burundi, Rwanda and Congo, have sought to extend their rule.

In Burundi and Congo, this triggered protests and led to violence.

Source: News Agencies