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Senegal Opposition Attempts Another Pre-Election Protest

West Africa analyst Moubarack Lo says Senegal’s constitution guarantees the opposition the right to protest

Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade
Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade

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James Butty

The M-23 Movement in Senegal, which has been spearheading the protest against President Abdoulaye Wade’s decision to run for a third term, has promised to stage another demonstration Wednesday in the capital, Dakar.

The group said it plans to march from the Medina Neighborhood to Independence Square, which is close to the presidential palace, and where authorities have consistently banned opposition rallies.

Police prevented youths Tuesday from holding a permanent sit-in the square.  Moubarack Lo, a Senegalese West Africa analyst, said M-23 believes Senegal’s new constitution gives them the right to hold protest marches.

“We don’t know what the police will do today.  Normally, marches are free in Senegal.  If you follow the constitution, you do not need an authorization from the government.  You have to tell them, ‘We are going to have a march.’  This is what the M-23 did, but the Minister of the Interior said that the march was not authorized.  But, I expect that they [M-23] will be allowed today to do their march,” he said.

At the same time and while he is being hounded by protests for his decision to run for a third term, President Wade has been campaigning for the February 26 presidential election.

Lo said the opposition is divided into three camps and include two of Wade’s former prime ministers.

“You have clearly one group with two candidates, I can say one replaced another one because the first had started doing his campaign from the beginning.  The second one is a group that is doing rallies in Dakar.  And, the third group is a group that it seems does not want to go to election,” Lo said.

He said the opposition stands a chance of defeating Wade in the February 26th election.

“The situation is that the popularity of President Wade is very low in opinion polls.  You know, opinion polls are not really allowed here, but many opinion polls organized in the last six or eight months show that Mr. Wade’s popularity is very low.  So, normally, there is no way for Mr. Wade to win this election,” Lo said.

Lo said the February 26th election might go to a second round assuming it is conducted in a free and fair manner.

“What we expect is there will be a second round, maybe between him and his former prime minister and, in the second round, generally, the opposition used to support the best candidate from the opposition,” Lo said.

Wade has said he would win the election on the first ballot.  Lo warned a victory by Wade would most likely plunge the country into violence.

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