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Opposition Protest Planned Over Senegal President’s Re-Elect Bid

Members of a Senegalese anti-government youth movement Y En A Marre [We're Fed Up] chant slogans during a rally against President Abdoulaye Wade, in the capital Dakar, January 27, 2012.

The leader of Senegal’s National Democratic Rally (RND), Dialo Diop, says his party is teaming up with other opposition parties and civil society groups to launch a peaceful nationwide protest Tuesday.

The protests, Diop says, will attempt to pressure President Abdoulaye Wade to abdicate power after accusing the Senegalese leader of orchestrating a constitutional coup d’état. A constitutional Court ruled late Sunday that Wade can seek a third term, despite a constitutional provision that limits the president to two terms. But, supporters contend the rule does not apply to Wade because the constitution was not in effect when he took office in 2000.

The court ruling sparked protests that began last week leading to the deaths of two people in the northern town of Podor. According to witnesses, a woman and a high school student were killed by security forces.

“Today is the D-day for us since we made up our minds to organize a nationwide protest against, what we call, a constitutional coup,” said opposition leader Diop. “We want him [Mr. Wade] to relinquish power and cancel his candidacy because we made up our minds that, if he wants to be part of that election, the election will simply not take place.”

Some observers express concern Tuesday’s protests could provoke yet another violent confrontation with security forces. But, Diop insists the protests will be peaceful.

“We decided to hold peaceful demonstrations, implicitly nonviolent protests, because we are going to [be faced] with armed forces, police gendarmeries and even the military men and we don’t even have knives,” said Diop.” We are ready to cope with the repressive forces in a peaceful way.”

The opposition parties failed in their latest attempt to prevent Wade from his third term bid, after the country’s highest court rejected their legal appeal late Monday. The ruling effectively ends any possible legal challenge to thwart Wade’s re-election effort.

Diop says Wade’s opponents resorted to the mass protests after exhausting their legal challenge.

“The time for judiciary procedure is over. What we’ve got to start now is political, peaceful action,” said Diop.

He maintains their objections will pressure Wade to withdraw from the scheduled February 26 presidential vote.

“We are going to challenge him on the power and strength issues because one man’s will cannot prevail over the whole people’s determination, and that is what we are going to show him bluntly, but coolly and calmly,” said Diop.

The United States is expressing concern about the deepening political dispute. Speaking in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns said Wade's decision to run again may undermine Senegal’s “spirit of democracy” and threaten its long record of political stability.