Senegal Holds Rival Rallies For and Against President

Posted July 23rd, 2011 at 3:50 pm (UTC-5)
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Thousands of Senegalese demonstrators gathered in the capital, Dakar, Saturday to hold rival rallies over President Abdoulaye Wade's right to run for a third term.

Anti-government protesters, including former Prime Minister Macky Sall, marched through a public square outside the city center, denouncing Mr. Wade's re-election campaign. They say constitutional limits prevent him from running again.

The protest had been originally scheduled downtown, but organizers changed the venue in an attempt to comply with a newly-imposed ban on political rallies outside government buildings and several major squares.

Another rally, held by Mr. Wade's supporters from Senegalese Democratic Party had taken place outside the party's headquarters in a northern suburb. Demonstrators there called for Mr. Wade's another five-year term, arguing he is entitled to run again because the new constitution was not in effect when he was first elected president in 2000.

The demonstrations came one month after the massive June 23 protests against chronic power shortages and President Wade's bid to amend the constitution. More than 100 people were injured in rioting that police put down with tear gas and water cannon.

Opponents say the changes were aimed at making it easier for the president to be re-elected and for his son, Karim Wade, to succeed him.

After the massive protests, the 85-year-old leader withdrew the proposed amendments. He also said he was willing to move forward February's scheduled vote. He said that if the opposition is “in a hurry” and sure it will win, he will consider an early vote “if that is necessary for social cohesion and national harmony.”