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Rival Rallies in Senegal Over President's Right to Run Again

Senegalese rapper Thiat, a leader of the 'Y en a marre' (Enough is Enough) opposition group, addresses protesters during an opposition rally demanding that Senegalese leader Abdoulaye Wade renounce his bid for a third presidential term in Dakar, Senega, J

In Senegal's capital Saturday there were two big political rallies. One for President Abdoulaye Wade's re-election. One by the president's opponents says his candidacy is unconstitutional.

Anti-government protestors marched through Dakar's Place de l'Obelisque denouncing the president's re-election campaign.

They say constitutional term limits prevent Mr. Wade from running again. Those limits came into force in 2007. So the president's supporters say the law does not apply to his first term, which began in 2000.

University student Amadou Sow says the president is breaking the law when he is the one who is supposed to be defending the constitution.

Sow says people are demonstrating to say no to the candidacy of Mr. Abdoulaye Wade because it is unconstitutional. Sow says the president does not have the right to run again, that is why people are saying no.

Safiatou Gueye helped hold a banner telling the president to keep his hands off the Senegalese constitution. Gueye says the opposition alliance is mobilized behind its success one month ago to force the ruling party to abandon constitutional changes that would have made it easier for President Wade to win re-election on the first ballot.

That June 23 protest outside the National Assembly was the biggest anti-government demonstration of the Wade presidency. More than 100 people were injured in rioting that police put down with tear gas and water cannon.

When opposition leaders announced plans to mark its one-month anniversary Saturday with a rally downtown, the government banned all rallies downtown. So protestors moved to the Place de l'Obelisque and the ruling party rallied at its headquarters in a northern suburb.

The president's supporters carried signs that said “Five More Years” and “President Wade, Hope of the Nation”. Student Koumba Bah says he is Senegal's best choice. He has experience, Bah said. He has worked since he was elected in 2000 and has done many things to develop the country. That is why she wants him to be president again in 2012.

Businessman Abdoulaye Thiam says the president's opponents are trying to use the question of term limits because they know they can not beat him at the ballot box.

Thiam says the other candidates are all people who worked with President Wade before as ministers but then when they left power they say he has never done anything. Thiam says the president is the best candidate and that is who he is going to vote for.

President Wade is proposing to move forward February's scheduled vote. He says if the opposition is “in a hurry and sure” it will win, he will consider an early vote “if that is necessary for social cohesion and national harmony.”