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Senegal Opposition Demands President Give Up Third Term Bid

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 (file photo)

The leader of Senegal’s National Democratic Rally (RND) said it’s now the priority of opposition and civil society organizations to prevent incumbent President Abdoulaye Wade from participating in this month’s vote.

Opposition parties signed a joint statement following a meeting Sunday to oppose Wade’s candidacy after accusing him of orchestrating a constitutional coup d’état.

Dialo Diop said opposition parties unanimously agreed not to campaign unless Wade is replaced as a presidential candidate for the ruling Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS). Official campaigning began Sunday in the run-up to the February 26th election.

“We won’t start any campaign until the incumbent president retires or relinquishes his candidacy,” said Diop. “When the moment President Wade starts campaigning [occurs], our only common [purpose] will be to campaign against his candidacy…and we want his party to have another candidate running for president.”

But, supporters of the ruling PDS insist Wade will remain their nominee.

Analysts say the opposition demands could derail the scheduled election. Diop says the opposition’s unity against Wade underscores the need to prevent what he calls an illegal candidate.

“Our decision is [in] two steps. First, there would be no boycott of the election and the second, no postponement of the vote,” said Diop. “There would be no election with President Wade’s involvement.”

He insists the opposition protests will be peaceful.

“We are going to have several common demonstrations; today, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, until the incumbent president retires or until he is dismissed as a candidate,” continued Diop. “Because that is the only way to keep on opposing what we call a constitutional coup implemented with his council.”

Diop says some members of the ruling PDS are voicing dissent about Wade’s candidacy.

“Some of them are members of parliament, others are ministers publicly taking [a] stance to say that that they need another candidate for the so-called PDS,” said Diop. “That will be an intelligent solution to the crisis opened by this constitutional coup.”

Diop says opposition parties will continue their protests until the ruling party replaces Wade as its candidate in this month’s vote.

A recent ruling by Senegal’s Constitutional Council effectively paved the way for Wade’s bid for a third term. But, the opposition insists the ruling sharply contravenes the constitution.