AU/ECOWAS Call for Compromise in Senegal Presidential Vote

Posted February 25th, 2012 at 5:30 pm (UTC-5)
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Voters in Senegal go to the polls Sunday in controversial presidential elections amid continuing calls by the country's opposition to postpone the vote and for incumbent President Abdoulaye Wade to drop his re-election bid.

The African Union-ECOWAS election observation mission suggested Saturday that Mr. Wade serve an abbreviated two-year-term if re-elected, with fresh elections to follow.

The head of the joint mission, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, said the proposed compromise to the pre-election discord will lower risks that the historically stable West African country will propel into “chaos, tragedy and disaster.”

“We have heard, and that has not been in doubt, that even the president had indicated that if he wins the election he will consider utilizing three years of the term. Then, we have heard, also talking to the opposition group, that they will not want to allow anything more than one year. So we said to ourselves if one side is talking of one year and the other side is talking of three years, we should stay in the middle and take an average. We suggested in our proposal two years.”

Mr. Obasanjo also suggested that the opposition be allowed to appoint a technician to join the existing electoral team, saying there have been “rumors of manipulations.”

However, by late Saturday neither side has agreed to the proposed compromise.

The opposition says President Wade's bid for a third term is unconstitutional following a reform he signed into law in 2001 that limits presidents to two terms. But the presidentially-appointed Constitutional Court ruled last month that reform did not apply to Mr. Wade because it came into effect while he was already in office.

The 85-year-old incumbent became Senegal's leader in 2000. The U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Johnny Carson, who is in the country to monitor the election, has called Mr. Wade's decision to run again “regrettable.”

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has expressed “concern” over the poll and called for a “peaceful, orderly and transparent” election.

The elections are taking place following weeks of street riots during which protestors throwing rocks and erecting fiery barricades clashed with police firing tear gas and rubber bullets. At least six people have been killed in the anti-government protests.