Senegal Drops Bid to Change Constitution After Protests

Posted June 23rd, 2011 at 6:55 pm (UTC-5)
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Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade has abandoned efforts to change the constitution as clashes erupted between riot police and opposition supporters in the capital, Dakar.

Thousand of protesters, some throwing stones, gathered outside Senegal's parliament, where lawmakers were meeting Thursday to debate the proposed changes. Police fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse the demonstrators.

Supporters of the opposition said the proposed amendment would make it easier for President Wade to stay in power.

The current constitution says a president must be elected with an absolute majority of the vote — 50 percent plus 1. Mr. Wade's ruling party had sought to lower that threshold to 25 percent.

The proposed amendment would also have created a new post of vice president, which opponents believe was intended for Mr. Wade's son.

Senegal's Justice Minister told lawmakers on Thursday evening that President Wade had considered the lawmakers' concerns and decided to withdraw the draft legislation. The move was met with cheers from lawmakers who had begun to express doubts about the proposed consitutional changes.

The United States and France had both expressed concern about the ruling party's proposed constitutional amendments.