Senegal Presidential Campaign Ends With Demonstrations

Posted February 25th, 2012 at 1:30 am (UTC-5)
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Senegal President Abdoulaye Wade is ignoring demonstrations for him to withdraw his controversial bid for a third term in Sunday's election.

On Friday, a few hundred women marched in protest past a billboard of the 85-year-old leader in Dakar, the capital. They say Mr. Wade has breached the constitution by seeking a third term.

President Wade denounced opposition concerns about the legitimacy of his candidacy during a rally Friday in Dakar, telling supporters his government would be open for discussions, even with the opposition.

Some of Mr. Wade's critics have held almost daily protests for a couple of weeks in an effort to force Mr. Wade to withdraw ahead of the 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. There are 13 opposition candidates. A run-off will be held if no candidate wins a majority.

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.

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.

On Thursday, the United States called on Senegal to ensure the elections are peaceful, transparent and reflect the will of the Senegalese people. The U.S. as well as former colonial power France have criticized Mr. Wade's decision to run again.

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