Tensions are high in Senegal in anticipation of a Constitutional Court’s decision on whether President Abdoulaye Wade should be allowed to run for a third term.
The opposition and much of the country’s civil society say the president does not have the constitutional mandate to run for a third term, and they are promising a mass resistance should the court confirms the president’s candidacy.
In anticipation of the ruling and the possible reaction, Interior minister Ousmane Ngom announced a five-day ban on all protests as of Thursday.
Abdoul Lo, a Senegalese political analyst, said since the Constitutional Court judges have been appointed by Wade, it is likely they will approve his decision to seek a third term.
“My fear of what may come from the Constitutional Court decision is probably a go-ahead for the head of state. You know how it works in Africa that, since the head of state is the one appointing all the judges of the court, people expect that the court will side [with the president], and that may create turmoil in the country since the majority of Senegalese people will not accept any unfair decision from the court,” he said.
Wade, first elected in 2000 and re-elected in 2007, argued that, since the length of presidential terms was changed while he was in office, he is able to run for another term.
Lo said most Senegalese have concluded that Wade should not seek re-election.
“What we learned from our constitution is that the head of state has one mandate renewable once. Since he was elected in 2000, and re-elected 2007, the only reading we can have from our constitution is he has done his two mandates and no longer has the right to run for a third term,” Lo said.
In addition, Lo said Wade’s age, 85, is also concerning to most Senegalese.
He said the uncertainties surrounding the court’s anticipated decision have created heightened fear that Senegal could break out into violence, the kind that occurred in Ivory Coast.
“We’ve seen what happened in Cote d’Ivoire months and months ago, and some people fear that this may happen again in a country that has a very long history of democracy,” he said.
The opposition and much of the country’s civil society are promising a mass resistance should the court confirm the president’s candidacy.
In anticipation of the ruling and the possible reaction, Interior minister Ousmane Ngom announced a five-day ban on all protests that began Thursday.
Lo said the opposition intends to disobey the ban on protests because they feel it is their constitutional right to demonstrate.
“Definitely, the opposition and civil society activists will be out today [Friday]. What is going to come out of the demonstration, only God knows. My guess is that they will arrest all the opposition leaders, the civil society activists, etc., put them in jail for maybe [a] couple of hours, or couple of days, since the Interior Minister said they don’t have the right to demonstrate,” Lo said.