The president’s decision to run for a third term has been met by anger in one of Africa’s most mature democracies.
It was one of the most peaceful nations on Africa’s west coast. But is that beginning to change?
“When your president tells you and the whole world that the new constitution doesn’t allow him to run in 2012 and then he changes his mind, it is a constitutional coup d’etat and he will look for an electoral coup d’etat. We have no trust in the process, in the system, once our constitution has been violated.”
– Cheikh Tidiane Gadio, an opposition leader
Senegal’s constitutional court has approved the decision by Abdoulaye Wade, the country’s president, to run for a third term despite the fact that the constitution was changed in 2000 – shortly after Wade took office – to limit presidents to just two terms.
Wade argues that the law does not apply to him as it was not in effect when he was first elected and says he needs another three years to complete his projects. This has fuelled speculation that he is lining up his son Karim as his potential successor.
The Senegalese opposition has responded by calling on the people to protest.
A policeman was stoned to death in violent clashes in the capital, Dakar, on Friday as youths torched cars and shops, erected barricades and burnt tyres.
“The president can guarantee, with our partners, observers, the EU and France, that on February 26 we can organise elections that are fair, transparent, democratic and controlled by EU observers.”
– Amadou Sall, a spokesperson for the president
Calm returned to Dakar over the weekend, but police in full riot gear and armed with tear gas, grenade launchers and truncheons have been deployed around the presidential palace.
Meanwhile, opposition parties, which have united under the June 23 Movement (M23), have vowed to continue “national resistance” and called the court’s decision a “constitutional coup”.
So is Senegal sliding into chaos?
Inside Story, with presenter Laura Kyle, discusses with guests: Cheikh Tidiane Gadio, a presidential candidate for the Citizen Political Movement Party and a leader of the M23 opposition movement; Amadou Sall, a spokesperson for Abdoulaye Wade, the current president; and Sylvain Touati, an expert on West Africa and an associate fellow at the French Institute for International Relations.
“We’ve seen a lot of political moves in recent years. Many Senegalese are reacting against Wade’s move to try to promote his son Karim, whose legitimacy is not that great at the moment. What a lot of Senegalese people I spoke to recently were very, very upset about is this father-son relationship about power in Senegal.”
Sylvain Touati from the French Institute for International Relations