Senegal Presidential Campaign Ends, as Opposition Protests Continue

Posted February 24th, 2012 at 4:40 am (UTC-5)
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The final day of campaigning gets underway Friday in Senegal amid continued protests and calls from the opposition for incumbent President Abdoulaye Wade to withdraw his controversial bid for a third term.

Opposition groups have held near-daily protests for much of the past week in an effort to force Mr. Wade to step down ahead of Sunday's election. They say he is barred from running because of a constitutional two-term limit.

But presidential spokesperson Amadou Sall told VOA he is confident that Mr. Wade would not entertain the request to step down and that he will win the first round of voting.

“President Wade is a candidate of a group of parties who support him and we have the majority of the Senegalese people with us, and the constitutional court said the candidacy of Wade is good. So, he is a legal candidate.”

Sall said the poll would proceed as planned, despite the opposition protests, some of which have been banned by government authorities.

Pre-election violence has reportedly killed at least 10 people, raising fears that Senegal could be sliding toward unrest after years of stability and democracy.

Papa Mohamed Camara, an advisor for Senegal's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said tight security measures will be in place for Sunday's polls.

“All the disposition are going to be made to protect all the goods and persons around Senegal on that particular day. And beyond, after results are proclaimed, they will continue watching over and monitoring the situation to the point where no…clash will happen.”

On Thursday, the United States called on Senegal to ensure the elections are peaceful, transparent and reflect the will of the Senegalese people.

Former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo has been sent to Dakar to try to ease tensions on behalf of a joint African Union-ECOWAS election observation mission.

The 85-year-old Mr. Wade is running against 13 opposition candidates. A run-off will be held if no candidate wins a majority.

The violent opposition protests broke out last month after Senegal's constitutional court ruled that Mr. Wade's bid for a third term was legal because the presidential two-term limit only became law after he was elected.