Riots in Senegal Force President to Drop Proposed Constitutional Changes
July 13, 2011
By: Carlos Aramayo | Printer Friendly
On June 22, Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade dropped proposed changes to the country's constitution after police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at approximately 1,000 protesters outside of the parliamentary building in the the capital city of Dakar. Reuters reported that Wade’s proposed changes included reducing the proportion of votes needed to win a presidential election from 50 percent down to 25 percent. This change would allow for the elimination of second round run-off elections. Wade also wanted to create elections for the position of vice president. Voice of America reported that the Senegalese President said the proposed changes were meant to “reinforce democracy.”
According to BBC News, critics said the run-off amendment was designed to ensure that Wade, 85, was re-elected next year against a fractured opposition. People feared Wade intended to give the post of vice president to his son Karim, who is already a powerful minister in the current administration.
Since 2007, Wade has handed his son four ministries, giving him control of half of Senegal's budget, Voice of America reported. As minister of state for international cooperation, regional development, and infrastructure, Karim Wade currently controls more than one-quarter of Senegal's federal budget, including the energy portfolio.
In an interview with the Christian Science Monitor, the Eurasia Group’s Africa Department Director, Philippe de Pontet, stated: "Over the last three or four years, some of Senegal's shine has come off, there's been rising concern already about the tendency towards autocratic rule and the excessive centralization of power in the presidency.”
Wade first came to power in democratic polls more than a decade ago, but is now facing growing anger at daily electricity cuts and the rising cost of living.
BBC News– Abdoulaye Wade drops poll plans after riots
Reuters – Senegal's Wade withdraws poll bill as protests rage
Christian Science Monitor – Senegal's president chips away at country's democratic record
Voice of America – Senegal Protests Disrupt Plans for Vice Presidency