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Senegal Opposition to Launch Election Campaigns

  • Nick Loomis

Senegalese opposition leader Macky Sall gestures as he attends a demonstration demanding that President Abdoulaye Wade drop plans to seek a third term in Dakar, Senegal, January 31, 2012.

Senegalese opposition leader Macky Sall gestures as he attends a demonstration demanding that President Abdoulaye Wade drop plans to seek a third term in Dakar, Senegal, January 31, 2012.

Two leading opposition candidates in Senegal have said they will start campaigning on Sunday to dislodge President Abdoulaye Wade from power. Others remain committed to repealing his candidacy. One analyst doubts the divided opposition will succeed on either front.

It's another crack in an already-fractured opposition. Leading contenders Macky Sall and Moustapha Niasse have decided to concentrate on the campaign period, which officially opens on Sunday, instead of helping to rally a popular front against President Wade's candidacy.

"For me, they are making a big and huge mistake because Wade is so sure that he's going to win," said Senegalese political analyst Abdoul Lo. "If I am a bit wise, I have to believe that because they have strong, maybe, guarantees that they will reach their objective."

President Wade overcame his first major hurdle last Sunday, when Senegal's Constitutional Council made its final decision that he could seek a third term, despite a limit of two in the constitution.

If there's one thing the opposition agrees on, it is that the court's independence was compromised and Wade has no right to present himself to voters on February 26. Lo says the rest of the field now has a tough decision on whether to campaign or boycott the vote.

"If they don't go, he will go anyway. If they go, he will defeat them, as I said earlier, by any means necessary. So I understand that it's a bit complicated for them," added Lo.

There are also rifts in the opposition between the political and non-political entities, as was seen during Tuesday's protests. Organizers and politicians wanted a peaceful demonstration, while the masses wanted to march on the presidential palace. The lack of consensus confined clashes to Dakar's Place d'Obélisque, where at least one protester was killed. Minister of Foreign Affairs Madické Niang said on Wednesday that police are obliged to react accordingly to crowds that become violent.

Niang says that if the Senegalese people want to express themselves in a legal manner, they are free to do so, but they should be on guard against those who want to create violence.

Amnesty International has called on President Wade to send a clear order to security forces that lethal force should only be used when their lives are in danger.

Three other people were killed last Friday during protests against Wade's candidacy.

During a television appearance Wednesday, the 85-year-old president compared the clashes to a "light breeze."

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