Senegal constitution change sparks protests

Demonstrators say proposed electoral law would strengthen President Abdoulaye Wade's 11-year grip on power.

    Witnesses said police fired tear-gas and water cannons at protesters in Dakar and other cities of Senegal [Reuters]

    Opposition protesters have taken to the streets of the Senegalese capital, Dakar, over proposed changes to the constitution that opponents argue would allow the incumbent president to easily retain power in next February's elections.

    Private television stations in Senegal showed footage of Thursday's protests against the 85-year-old president, Abdoulaye Wade, in cities and towns elsewhere around the West African nation.

    Witnesses told Al Jazeera that police fired tear-gas and water cannons at thousands of protesters chanting "Leave Wade" and "Don't touch my constitution" around the National Assembly and presidential palace in Dakar.

    Al Jazeera spoke to Abir Saksouk-Sasso, a witness to the protests in Dakar, Senegal

    Several people were injured when crowds clashed with police, according to reports.

    The current law requires that a candidate win a majority of more than 50 per cent of the ballots to win the first round of voting.

    The proposed constitutional amendment would reduce that number to only 25 per cent.

    Government officials now say the planned changes have been discarded, but one proposal remains that creates a position of vice-president, leaving Wade's rivals concerned that he has plans to bring his son, Karim, into power.

    "It is a first step but I am waiting to see the final outcome of the text. We will maintain the mobilisation," Macky Sall, a leading opposition figure and former prime minister, told the Reuters news agency.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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